Omar McLeod will start pre-race favourite as he hunts Jamaica’s maiden Olympic men’s 110m hurdles title.
McLeod, who placed sixth in last year’s World Championships final, has stepped up to a new level this year. He began his 2016 campaign with a flourish, setting a national record of 7.41 to take 60m hurdles gold at the IAAF World Indoor Championships Portland 2016.
Outdoors he scorched to a world-leading PB of 12.98 in Shanghai, and although he disappointed to place eighth in Monaco in his final pre-Rio IAAF Diamond League appearance, he will be fancied to make a major impact at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
No Spanish athlete has ever won an Olympic men’s 110m hurdles medal but hopes are high Orlando Ortega can end the drought. The Cuban-born athlete, who finished sixth in the London 2012 Olympic final, clinched IAAF Diamond League wins in Rome and Monaco – the latter in a national record 13.04 – to mark him out as serious gold medal contender.
Newcomer Allen leads US challenge
The USA has won this title a remarkable 20 times in 28 previous editions of the event. Although reigning champion Aries Merritt did not qualify via the cut-throat US trials to defend his title, the world’s most successful sprint hurdles nation is not lacking in class.
Leading their charge is the multi-talented Devon Allen, who caused a major surprise to land the US title by wiping 0.13 from his lifetime best in a world-class time of 13.03. The 21-year-old, who also plays as gifted wide receiver for the University of Oregon, had the previous month landed the NCAA title and despite his inexperience is a genuine hopeful.
Competing alongside Allen on the US team are Ronnie Ash (13.18) and Jeff Porter (13.21). Ash, who placed second at the US Olympic Trials, has the chance to redeem a disappointing IAAF World Championships last year where he was disqualified from his heat for false-starting. Porter – husband to Great Britain’s 100m hurdler Tiffany Porter – makes his second Olympic appearance and will hope to go one better than he did at the 2012 Olympics when he progressed to the semi-finals.
France also has a rich tradition in the sprint hurdles and leading their three-strong team is Dimitri Bascou, the recently minted European champion. Bascou set a lifetime best of 13.12 in Monaco and triumphed in the IAAF Diamond League meeting in London to further underline his credentials.
He is supported on the French team by European bronze medallist Wilhem Belocian (13.28) and world indoor silver medallist Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, who on his day is another top notch performer.
McLeod is joined on the Jamaican team by Deuce Carter, who at the age of 25 has made a near three-tenths of a second improvement this year to place second at the national championships.
Great Britain’s Andrew Pozzi, a two-time fourth-place finisher over 60m hurdles at the World Indoor Championships, has been riddled with injuries in recent seasons. Yet a recent PB of 13.19 at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in London, coupled with an encouraging third place in Rome, puts the British champion in a confident mood.
Other entrants include Hungary’s European silver medallist Balazs Baji (13.28), African champion Antonio Alkana of South Africa (13.28) and Asian gold medallist Xie Wenjun (13.34) of China. Cuba's 2008 Olympic champion Dayron Robles is also entered.
Steve Landells of the IAAF