Grant Holloway

Grant Holloway chose Florida track over Georgia football, then became a world champion

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Coming out of Grassfield High School in Chesapeake, Va., Grant Holloway was a talented enough wide receiver to earn an offer from the University of Georgia. One problem: He wanted to be an Olympian.

So Holloway chose the University of Florida, which didn’t want him for football. He went to Gainesville to join a more successful program — track and field. Holloway began competing for the Gators and coach Mike Holloway, whom he came to find out was a distant relative.

As a freshman, Holloway swept the NCAA 60m and 110m hurdles titles. He was fourth at the USATF Outdoor Championships, missing the world championships team by .05 of a second as a 19-year-old.

In 2019, he turned pro after his junior year, having swept the NCAA 60m and 110m hurdles all three seasons. In his last season, he also won the indoor 60m (no hurdles) and was part of a champion 4x100m relay team. From January to October, Holloway ran more than 40 races going into the world championships final in Doha.

Holloway is a hurdler of ritual. He writes “God’s will,” on his hand before every race. In Doha, he smiled before settling into the blocks and said “thank you,” a reminder to be grateful for his situation, going for a medal at age 21 against the globe’s best.

Holloway jumped the field from the start. As he cleared hurdles, after knocking the first one, he felt the man two lanes to his right. It was Omar McLeod, the Olympic and world champion from Jamaica.

“I call him Mr. Silk,” Holloway said, McLeod’s nickname. “He calls me Flamingo.”

McLeod’s hamstring grabbed. He hit a late hurdle and stumbled to last place.

“I could see Omar coming up. He’s coming. He’s coming,” Holloway told NBC Sports’ Leigh Diffey recently. “But then all of a sudden in a snap of a finger, he was out.”

Holloway endured, winning in 13.10 seconds and by .05 over Russian Sergey Shubenkov. It came one night after his roommate and friend since high school, Noah Lyles, won the 200m. Holloway and Lyles spent hours in a downstairs hospitality room in Doha, playing Super Smash Bros.

Next year, they could run in the same race. Holloway would cherish the chance to join the 4x100m at the Tokyo Olympics. The quartet with Lyles, Christian ColemanJustin Gatlin and Mike Rodgers prevailed in Doha, ending a 12-year drought.

“I would love to do it, but Team USA, it’s a lot of politics behind it,” he said. U.S. track and field carefully crafts relay pools, considering chemistry and the fact it hasn’t won an Olympic gold since the 2000 Sydney Games. “My goal this year was to get a [hurdles] gold medal at Doha. … At that point, if they needed me, they would have called me or they would have told me to come to practice the next day.

“I would love to be on a relay. It’s one of my dreams to hold that flag and take USA out of the drought, but I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to catch too much backlash.”

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Grant Holloway adds 110m hurdles title to generational worlds for U.S. male sprinters

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U.S. men’s sprinting, cast into the shadows by Usain Bolt the previous decade, is back on the throne.

Grant Holloway, 21, became the third American sprinter age 23 or younger to win a world title this week, taking the 110m hurdles in Doha in 13.10 seconds on Wednesday. He came through after the U.S. failed to earn a 110m hurdles medal at the Olympics for the first time in 2016 and at worlds for the first time in 2017.

Holloway’s championship followed 23-year-old Christian Coleman winning the 100m on Sunday and 22-year-old Noah Lyles taking the 200m on Tuesday. Rai Benjamin, 22, grabbed silver in the 400m hurdles. Fred Kerley, 24, is the new favorite in Friday’s 400m final after Michael Norman, 21 and fastest in the world this year, bowed out in Wednesday’s semifinals with an injury.

All this after the U.S. earned two of 10 available men’s individual sprint gold medals between the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, and four out of 15 when including the 2008 Beijing Games. Bolt earned six individual golds by himself among those three Games.

But Bolt is retired. The Jamaican pipeline is dry. A new U.S. generation arrived with perfect timing.

TRACK WORLDS: Results | TV Schedule

Take Holloway, who spurned SEC football offers to run track at Florida.

“I sat down with parents and asked if I wanted to be NFL or Olympian and my heart was to be an Olympian,” he said, according to Athletics Weekly. “American football is very unforgiving on the body. Do you want to walk at 30? Or be in a wheelchair at 35?”

He went on to capture NCAA 110m hurdles titles as a freshman, sophomore and junior, breaking Renaldo Nehemiah‘s 40-year-old collegiate record this past season. He then turned pro. While most NCAA athletes fail to extend their form into the world championships, especially hard with worlds so late this season, Holloway managed to peak twice.

Holloway ran the world’s fastest time this year at NCAAs, a 12.98 on June 7. His best time in his three meets between NCAAs and worlds was 13.16. He was runner-up at USATF Outdoors and sixth in his Diamond League debut.

“Everybody counted me out coming into this meet because I’ve been off my game for two months now,” Holloway, the Virginia son of a retired Naval officer and school teacher, told Lewis Johnson on NBCSN. “I just sucked. I just ran like s—.”

But in Doha, Holloway was back in form. Before the final, his coach in Gainesville, Mike Holloway, told him, “See you in 12 seconds.”

It wasn’t quite that fast, but Holloway beat a strong field that included the reigning Olympic and world champion Omar McLeod of Jamaica, who stumbled to last place after hitting a hurdle. Jamaican male sprinters are likely to leave an Olympics or worlds without a gold medal for the first time since 2007.

McLeod, going into the last hurdle, fell into the lane of Orlando Ortega, getting disqualified and likely costing the Spaniard a medal (but not the gold). Instead, Russian Sergey Shubenkov took silver (13.15) and Frenchman Pascal Martinod-Lagarde the bronze (13.18). McLeod was off kilter. He felt a hamstring tweak in warm-up, then it grabbed after the first hurdle.

“[Ortega] was upset,” McLeod said. “I was very upset, too. I didn’t want to cause any commotion or whatever, but I’m very, very sorry.”

In other finals Wednesday, Brit Dina Asher-Smith dominated an otherwise weak 200m final, clocking a national record 21.89 seconds. American Brittany Brown took silver in a personal best 22.22, one year after failing to make the NCAA Championships final. This world final included none of the reigning Olympic or world medalists.

Worlds continue Thursday with the women’s 400m final, featuring massive favorite Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas, and the conclusion of the heptathlon and decathlon.

Also Wednesday, Olympic champion and world-record holder Dalilah Muhammad was second-fastest in the 400m hurdles semifinals to fellow American Sydney McLaughlin, the 20-year-old phenom who turned pro after one college season. That final is Friday.

In the decathlon, world-record holder Kevin Mayer of France is in third place after day one, trailing Canadian Damian Warner by 30 points.

Brit Katarina Johnson-Thompson leads Olympic and world champion Nafi Thiam by 96 points after the first day of the heptathlon. Thiam also ranked second after day one in Rio and at the 2017 Worlds, coming back to win each title.

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Noah Lyles a must-see in Paris; Diamond League TV, live stream schedule

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The last time Noah Lyles raced a Diamond League 200m, he became the fourth-fastest man in history. His follow-up comes against a field of similar strength in Paris on Saturday

Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA airs live coverage from 2-4 p.m. ET. NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage starting at noon.

Lyles could look to improve on the 19.50 he ran in Lausanne on July 5, when he moved to No. 4 on the all-time list behind Usain BoltYohan Blake and Michael Johnson. There’s reason to believe he can, given the Swiss race was into a slight headwind.

And because most of the major players from Lausanne are back for Paris. That includes Turkey’s Ramil Guliyev, who won the 2017 World title while Lyles was out injured.

Two more notables — Olympic bronze medalist Christophe Lemaitre of France and Nigeria’s Divine Oduduru, the third-fastest man this year — are in Saturday’s field after missing the July event.

Lyles may also be looking at Paris as a lead-up to the two biggest international meets of the year — a Diamond League final in Brussels on Sept. 6 and the world championships in Doha three weeks later.

Here are the Paris entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

12:02 p.m. — Men’s Shot Put
12:35 — Women’s Triple Jump
1:17 — Women’s Discus
1:40 — Women’s Pole Vault
2:03 — Men’s 400m Hurdles
2:09 — Men’s High Jump
2:14 — Men’s 800m
2:24 — Women’s 100m
2:32 — Men’s Triple Jump
2:35 — Men’s 1500m
2:48 — Women’s 400m
2:57 — Men’s 200m
3:06 — Women’s 800m
3:29 — Men’s 3000m Steeplechase
3:50 — Men’s 110m Hurdles

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 1:40 p.m. ET
All six women who have cleared 4.80 meters this season are here, topped by world leader and London Olympic champion Jenn Suhr. But Suhr hasn’t won a top-level meet outside the U.S. since 2012. Watch out for Rio Olympic and world champ Katerina Stefanidi, the Greek who beat Suhr in Birmingham, Great Britain, last Sunday. And Olympic and world silver medalist Sandi Morris at her first Diamond League in two months.

Women’s 100m — 2:24 p.m. ET
Olympic champ Elaine Thompson takes her No. 1 world ranking into her first Diamond League 100m in two and a half months. Thompson rebounded from a blemished 2018 to win June’s Jamaican Championships in 10.73 seconds, cementing herself as the world championships favorite. Three other women in this field have a personal best in the 10.8s, including 2018 U.S. champion Aleia HobbsTeahna Daniels, the surprise 2019 U.S. champ, is coming off a third-place, 11.24 finish in Birmingham against a largely unaccomplished field.

Men’s Triple Jump — 2:32 p.m. ET
Americans Christian Taylor and Will Claye go head-to-head for the 48th time in this event, according to Tilastopaja.org. Taylor, who owns five combined Olympic and world titles, has a 25-22 edge and hasn’t lost to his countryman on the Diamond League level in five years. But Claye, who owns five combined Olympic and world medals (but no gold), ranks No. 1 in the world this year with his personal-best 18.14-meter mark from June 29. The winner here is likely the favorite for worlds.

Men’s 200m — 2:57 p.m. ET
Lyles has never lost to anyone in this field in senior competition. In fact, only one man has beaten him in a 200m in the last three years, countryman Michael Norman, who is focusing on the 400m this summer. Last year, Lyles made a statement by breaking 19.8 in the 200m on four separate occasions, something only Usain Bolt had previously done. Lyles is at three sub-19.8s so far this season with at least three meets left.

Men’s 110m Hurdles — 3:50 p.m. ET
Grant Holloway
, the only man to break 13 seconds this year, makes his Diamond League debut after turning professional following his junior season at Florida. He takes on the second- and third-fastest men this year, including former NCAA rival Daniel Roberts, who upset Holloway at the USATF Outdoor Championships.

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