U.S. Track & Field Trials: Grant Holloway ready to right the wrong of Tokyo

EUGENE, Ore. — He is the three-time reigning world champion in the 110-meter hurdles. His career-best time is one hundredth of a second shy of the world record. He hasn’t lost a 60-meter hurdles race in over a decade.

There’s really only one hole left in Grant Holloway’s unparalleled resume, one empty space in his trophy case that he’s eager to fill: The world’s most accomplished sprint hurdler has yet to capture Olympic gold.

“You’re training for that moment,” Holloway said. “That moment only comes every four years. If you’re not training to be an Olympic gold medalist, what the hell are you doing?”

It’s easy to imagine the 26-year-old Holloway checking that goal off his list later this summer after the way he dominated the 110 hurdles at this week’s U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials. In Monday night’s preliminary heat, Holloway became the first man to run a time of less than 13 seconds this year. Then he repeated that feat two more times, once in Thursday’s semifinal and again in the finals on Friday night.

Holloway’s winning time of 12.86 seconds was only six hundredths of a second slower than the world record set by Aries Merritt in 2012. The way Holloway sees it, he might have eclipsed that record had he not grazed the eighth hurdle.

“I was kinda mad at myself," he said with a smile. “First time in a long time I hit a hurdle and that kind of threw off my rhythm.”

Regardless, the pace Holloway set helped make Friday’s final one of the fastest hurdles races of all time. Holloway cleared the hurdles so efficiently that second-place Freddie Crittenden and third-place Daniel Roberts both also went under 13 seconds for the first time in their careers trying to keep up with him. Cordell Tinch ran a blistering 13.03 — a time that would have won gold in Tokyo 2021 — and failed to make the Olympic team.

The sight of three men under 13 seconds for the first time in the same race had Holloway, Critteden and Roberts all dreaming of a 1-2-3 U.S. sweep in Paris.

“If we all go out there and run our best race,” said Roberts, “I don’t think anyone in any other country can beat us.”

When he saw his winning time, Holloway broke into a huge grin, pumped his fists and raised both arms in the air. Moments later, he jogged over to the stands beside the finish line, cupped his hand to his ear and responded to the roars and applause by asking for even more noise.

It’s fitting that Holloway would have to do that because too often he doesn’t get the attention or accolades that some of his more famous U.S. teammates do. He doesn’t run the sport’s glamor race like Noah Lyles and Sha’Carri Richardson, nor did his finest moments come on an Olympic stage like Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone.

In his lone Olympic appearance three years ago, Holloway had the gall to finish second. Hansle Parchment, the third-place finisher at the Jamaican Olympic Trials, overtook Holloway to pull off a stunning upset.

“Grant Holloway definitely does deserve a lot more respect,” said American 400 hurdles king Rai Benjamin, a teammate of Holloway’s on multiple Olympic and world championship teams. “He’s dominated for so long, from when we knew him in high school, all the way to college and now in the pros. I think it goes under the radar his accomplishments and what he’s able to do.”

In an alternate reality, Holloway might be playing wide receiver in the NFL right now. The former four-star recruit had SEC offers when he was at Grassfield High in Chesapeake, Virginia.

Instead Holloway went to Florida and blossomed into America’s best sprint hurdler. Now he has his sights set on gold in Paris.

“That’s my mentality,” Holloway said. “If I’m not winning, I’m losing.”