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Failures fuel way to gold for former Arkansas hurdler

175 days ago
SEC Network
Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Arkansas (two gold medals in Rio)

Omar McLeod won the gold in the Men's 110-meter hurdles while competing for his native country Jamaica, capping an incredible story. He arrived in the United States just two years before the Rio games with a mere $300 in his pocket, and didn't even own a winter coat at the time.

McLeod also had no experience running indoors before his move to America, but he adapted quickly. He won the 60m hurdles as a freshman at the 2014 NCAA Indoor Championships with a 7.576 seconds in the final. Outdoors that year, he placed second in the 110m hurdles at both the SEC Championships and the NCAA West Regionals before pulling a hamstring at the NCAA Championships that caused him to miss the final.

McLeod returned to competition as a sophomore in 2015 and won the SEC indoor title in a record time of 7.49. At the 2015 NCAA Indoor Championships he repeated as champion, running 7.45 in the final. His time in the final was a new Jamaican national record, broke Reggie Torian's NCAA record from 1997 and tied with Cuba's Orlando Ortega for the world's fastest time that winter.

All of which set him up for his Olympic moment at Rio. He later revealed in an interview with Forbes Magazine that he could not have achieved his greatest successes without also enduring and learning from many failures along the way.

"People need to see and understand the ups, downs, and struggles of the journey," he told Forbes. "More athletes need to publicly show their struggles and explain how they stay motivated during trying times. ... You need to talk about your failures with the same enthusiasm that you talk about your successes as they are an integral part of the journey.

"Failure is a part of your story and makes you stronger," McLeod added. "It is a necessary component of the formula that leads to success."

The other Razorback who struck gold in Rio was Taylor Ellis-Watson, who was a member of the USA Women's 4x400m relay team in Track and Field. Ellis-Watson ran the second leg of the preliminary round of the relay with a split of 50.81 seconds. Although she did not race in the finals, she still earned gold for being part of the winning relay team.

Her Olympic success came as no surprise to those who followed her career with the Razorbacks. After transferring from Pittsburgh, where she competed as a freshman and earned All-Big East honors, Ellis-Watson landed at Arkansas and went on to become a nine-time All-American with the Hogs. She also was a member of the school's 2015 indoor and 2016 outdoor national championship teams.