David Oliver, perhaps the most consistent U.S. hurdler of the last decade, ends his track and field career with a unique, and shorter than expected, Olympic history.
Oliver, at 35, has retired, his agent, Daniel Wessfeldt, said by email Wednesday. Earlier, Oliver was announced as the director for the track and field program at his alma mater — Howard University.
From 2008 through 2016, Oliver finished in the top four in the annual world rankings in the 110m hurdles eight of nine years.
However, Oliver made just one Olympic team — in 2008, winning a bronze medal — and failed to qualify in 2012 and 2016 despite going into the Trials as a perceived favorite to finish top three.
Start with those Beijing Games. Unlike 2012 and 2016, Oliver went into 2008 with little fanfare. He had ranked sixth in the U.S. in the 110m hurdles in 2007 (though he made the world team, bowing out in the semifinals).
Oliver, who hurdles and played wide receiver at Howard, lowered his personal best from 13.14 to 12.95 in 2008. He went into the Olympics as the only man other than Cuban world-record holder Dayron Robles to break 13 seconds that year.
Oliver delivered in Rio, joining Robles and countryman David Payne on the podium. Oliver was aged for an Olympic rookie, at 26, but continued to improve in the following years as he developed a rivalry with Robles and 2004 Olympic champion Liu Xiang of China.
The muscle-bound Oliver’s battles with injuries began in 2009, when a calf kept him out of the U.S. Championships and worlds. Oliver rebounded in 2010, tying and then lowering the American record by .01 in back-to-back meets and posting the five fastest times that year.
Oliver again clocked the fastest time in the world in 2011, but it came in early June. He was fourth at worlds in late August. Injuries crept up again.
It was another troublesome calf that slowed Oliver to fifth place at the 2012 Olympic Trials — where he entered as the joint-second-fastest man in the U.S. that year but nowhere near his times from the previous seasons.
He came back in 2013 to win a world title in Moscow and break 13 seconds again in 2015, ranking No. 3 in the world for the year.
Oliver looked prime to return to the Olympics in 2016, ranking No. 2 in the world going into the Olympic Trials. But he pulled up after crossing the finish line in his semifinal with a hamstring injury and scratched out of the final later that day.
He returned this year but was significantly slower, failing to break 13.40 in six races, according to Tilastopaja.org. His last outing was a fifth-place finish at the USATF Outdoor Championships.
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