WINNER TAKES ALL: McLeod shares a light moment with Grange, who presented him with the Sportsman of the Year trophy.
ABOUT seven years ago, Omar McLeod was at home glued to his TV screen watching the National Sportsman & Sportswoman of the Year Awards and happy that two of his favourite athletes – Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce – had copped the most coveted trophies of the night. He turned to his viewing partner, his mom, and said, “I want one of those. I will get one of those.”
As we all know by now, McLeod now has one of those. On Friday night, before a packed Grand Jamaica Suite at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, the 23-year-old record-setting sprint hurdler emerged the top pick for Sportsman of the Year, for the first time in his career. The award, presented by culture and sports minister, Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange (McLeod’s cousin!), capped a fantastic year of achievement for the star. Alia Atkinson was named Sportswoman of the Year.
Well groomed and looking sharp in his dark suit, the World and Olympic champion gave a rousing acceptance speech (refusing to deliver a prepared script), in which he not only recapped his journey but also talked about lessons learned and offered words of encouragement to aspiring athletes and other young Jamaicans. “I said I would not stop until I made my dream come to fruition. And I said it with a big heart and an aspiring mind. To any child from the ghetto, don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something. Dream!,” said the sprint hurdler, who now holds the national record of 12.90 seconds. “Nobody can take away your success.”
After the ceremony, McLeod stayed behind and did press interviews and posed for pics with everyone from photojournalists and sports administrators to family members, friends and fans eager to capture a smartphone selfie with the Olympic gold medallist and man of the hour.
>> FAST TALK: McLeod shares his culture favourites and more
> Reggae artistes: Chronixx and Romain Virgo
> Dancehall stars: Aidonia and Vybz Kartel
> Best movies ever watched: “Too many to count.”
> Global icons he most admires: VCB and Usain
> On being crowned 2017’s Sportsman of the Year: “It feels good. It’s one of my lifelong goals I’ve now achieved.”
> His pick for Best Reggae Album winner: “Chronixx, of course!”
> Plans for 2018 include: “Breaking more records, winning more races and having fun while doing it.”