Harsh lessons learnt, Michael O'Hara believes he is finally ready to fulfill his potential

By February 19, 2021

In the summer of 2015, 18-year-old Calabar High School track star Michael O’Hara signed a professional contract with Puma and joined the world-famous Racers Track Club where he would rub shoulders with global stars Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, Warren Weir and a host of other world-class athletes.

Big things were expected from O’Hara who was the World U18 200m champion in 2013 and who also excelled at the 100m, 110m hurdles and even the 400m.

His 10.19 and 20.45 personal bests over the 100m and 200m, respectively, hinted at what was possible once he matured under the experienced handling of Coach Glen Mills.

“Michael is one of the world's top young sprinters. He is a World Youth Champion and multiple Jamaican Champion. Under the coaching guidance of Glen Mills I am confident that he has a very bright future," said his agent Ricky Simms.

Unfortunately, things have not gone as planned with the talented athlete struggling to make the successful transition that so many had expected of him.

Four years later, he returned to his high school coach Craig Sewell and began to make headway in the sprint hurdles, one of the three events at which he excelled in high school. Now, a member of the newly formed Legacy Track Club at his old high school, O’Hara believes he is finally ready to live up to his immense potential.

In a recent interview with Sportsmax.TV, O’Hara, now 24, believes he has learned the lessons necessary for him to finally make the next step.

“Back then I had to learn the sport better and to learn what the transition is and what it takes; to accept the fact that there might be downfalls, to accept the fact that there might be mistakes and during the time we have to fall down and get back up,” he said.

“Now, I am more focused and understanding of what it takes to be a professional athlete and what it takes to get where I want to be.”

Head Coach at Legacy Omar Hawse tells Sportsmax.TV that the signs are there that this not just talk from the former high school star. Since he has returned to Calabar and training with his former coaches, O’Hara has been a different athlete.

“He has been putting in some good work. He is more focused, he seems to be very hungry, takes instructions better and seems eager to get to his best,” Hawse said. “Let us hope it can continue.”

The early signs of improvement were there in 2019 when after returning to the sprint hurdles, his former coach Glen Mills admitted that O’Hara seemed to have found his niche. The 13.61 he ran in Loughborough was an indicator that things were moving in the right direction and put him in line to qualify for the 2019 World Championships in Doha.

After qualifying for the finals of the sprint hurdles at Jamaica’s national championships in 2019, OHara fell and was denied a place on the team to Doha. Notwithstanding that disappointment, OHara feels like things are finally falling into place for him to move forward.

“It’s a good welcome home for me. The coaches are not unfamiliar so my mind is in a good place,” he said. “I am very good to be where I am right now. Working with Sewell again has been rejuvenating because he was there in high school with me. The chemistry was there in high school and there is no unfamiliar chemistry now that I am back with him.”

Sewell said the focus is now on getting Michael physically ready for whatever event he chooses to do.

“We are preparing him for anything that he could do well in if it’s the hurdles, the 100 or 200,” he said. “That’s the plan going forward for him. I don’t think he has any preference at this point, he is just preparing for all, being more technical at all so when we are ready to make that decision, it will come down to what’s best at that time.”

Along the way, OHara has come in for much criticism from an expectant public, disappointed in his lack of progress. He says he is used to that and chooses to use those negatives in a more positive manner.

“Criticism is nothing new coming from high school to now. I take them as motivation for me. I always train like I have something to prove. This is my drive; that is what gives me my push to go forward,” he said.

 

Leighton Levy

Leighton Levy is a journalist with 28 years’ experience covering crime, entertainment, and sports. He joined the staff at SportsMax.TV as a content editor two years ago and is enjoying the experience of developing sports content and new ideas. At SportsMax.tv he is pursuing his true passion - sports.

Related items

  • Tokyo Olympics: China extend medal table lead as new weightlifting record set Tokyo Olympics: China extend medal table lead as new weightlifting record set

    Lyu Xiaojun became the oldest Olympic champion in weightlifting at the age of 37 to help tighten China's grip on top spot in the Tokyo 2020 medal table at the end of Saturday's action.

    That victory for Lu in the 81 kilograms category led to China's fifth weightlifting gold of this year's Games and broke the record previously held by Rudolf Plyukfelder, who was 36 when winning gold at Tokyo 1964. 

    China also came out on top in the women's windsurfer – RS:X event after a tense three-way battle which saw Yunxiu Lu edge out Charline Picon and Emma Wilson of France and Great Britain respectively.

    Japan remain second in the overall medal standings, despite failing to add to their 17 golds, which allowed the USA to close the gap after a successful day in the pool.

    Caeleb Dressel won the 100m butterfly to become only the second man to win that and the 100m freestyle at the same Olympic Games after compatriot Mark Spitz in Munich in 1972.

    And Katie Ledecky won the women's 800m freestyle to become the first woman to win six individual Olympic gold medals in swimming.

    The Russian Olympic Committee won their solitary gold for the day in fencing, triumphing in the women's sabre team final with a narrow victory over France to remain fourth, while Australia stay fifth thanks to Kaylee McKeown, who won the women's 200m backstroke to add to her 100m backstroke triumph.

    Further down the list, Jamaica earned a clean sweep of medals in the women's 100m as Elaine Thompson-Herah pipped compatriots Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Shericka Jackson to retain her crown as the world's fastest female.

    Other notable gold medals were awarded to Team GB in the triathlon mixed relay and Poland in the 4 x 400m mixed relay, with both of those events being added to the Olympic schedule for the first time in Tokyo.

    It was also a day to remember for Sweden as Daniel Stahl took gold in the men's discus, finishing just ahead of training partner Simon Pettersson to complete their nation's first one-two finish in an event at the summer Games since the men's 10,000m race walk at London 1948.

     

  • Tokyo Olympics Recap: Bolt celebrates Jamaica's clean sweep as Djokovic's Games end in frustration Tokyo Olympics Recap: Bolt celebrates Jamaica's clean sweep as Djokovic's Games end in frustration

    Jamaica completed a one-two-three clean sweep in the women's 100m sprint race in Tokyo, with gold medallist Elaine Thompson-Herah setting an Olympic record.

    Thompson-Herah defended the title she won in Rio and became the second-fastest woman in history in the process, recording a time of 10.61 seconds.

    Reigning world champion and compatriot Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce claimed silver, just .02 seconds ahead of Shericka Jackson as Jamaica completed a clean sweep which was celebrated on Twitter by Usain Bolt.

    Legendary sprinter Bolt  – an eight-time gold medallist – retired in 2017, and the men's preliminary rounds struggled for big names in his absence.

     

    Jamaica will have another chance of a medal in athletics, with 2019 world champion long jumper Tajay Gayle overcoming injury to make Monday's final with a leap of 8.14m.

    Sweden sealed a one-two in the men's discus – Daniel Stahl taking gold and Simon Pettersson silver – while Poland won their second Olympic gold medal in a relay event in athletics, their mixed team succeeding in the same city in which their women had tasted victory in 1964.


    NO LUCK FOR NOVAK

    Djokovic's Golden Slam hopes were ended on Friday, and on Saturday, his medal hopes crumbled.

    The world number one lost to Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta, who won 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 in the bronze medal match in the men's singles.

    For Djokovic, it was a defeat which represented the end of his campaign.

    He would have had another shot at bronze in the mixed doubles alongside Nina Stojanovic, but withdrew from that match, handing the medal to Ash Barty and John Peers of Australia in the process. 

    "The exhaustion, both physical and mental, got to me and it's unfortunate that in the most important matches I just didn't deliver, but I gave it all," said Djokovic, whose attention will now turn to winning the US Open to complete a calendar Grand Slam.

     

    BLACK FERNS RIGHT RIO WRONGS

    New Zealand's women clinched gold in the rugby sevens on Saturday, overcoming France 26-12.

    The Black Ferns cruised to the final in 2016, but slumped to a defeat to rivals Australia. Co-captain Portia Woodman was pictured in tears on the field in Brazil, yet her team made no such mistake this time around.

    "Crying underneath the posts was one that I looked back on, but now it's gone," Woodman said. "Not when I look at this," she added, gesturing to the gold medal around her neck.

    "Yeah, we've got titles and we've won things, but I want our group to be good people and show the world that you can be a good, genuine person and still have success," Woodman's fellow co-captain Sarah Hirini said. 

    "Our programme allowed that. Things like this happen because you're able to be who you are."

    In the bronze medal match, Fiji defeated Great Britain 21-12.

    "We are totally gutted. We really thought we could come here and get a medal, but we just weren't good enough," conceded Team GB's Hannah Smith. "Fiji really brought it to us today, so fair play to them."

    DEBUT BRONZE FOR WILSON, CHINA TAKE WINDSURFING GOLD

    There was joy for Britain out on the water, however, as Emma Wilson – an Olympic debutant – won bronze in the women's windsurfing.

    Wilson was already guaranteed a medal due to winning four races in the lead up to the final. The 22-year-old missed out on silver as Lu Yunxiu of China kept within a boat's length to claim the gold.

    Charline Picon took silver to follow up her win in Rio five years ago.

    "It's amazing. I tried so hard in that race - I just kept going and going," said Wilson. "I just want to win, but any medal is amazing. I'm super happy and I just gave it everything I had."

     

    CHINESE TAIPEI WIN MAIDEN BADMINTON GOLD

    Lee Yang and Wang Chi-Lin took home Chinese Taipei's first badminton gold on Saturday with a victory over Liu Yu Chen and Li Jun Hui of two-time reigning champions China in the men's doubles final.

    Their victory brought up the seventh Olympic gold for Chinese Taipei – the previous six having been split across weightlifting (four) and taekwondo (two).

    Malaysia claimed their first medal in Tokyo thanks to Wooi Yik Soh and Aaron Chia triumphing in the bronze medal match.

    In total, Malaysia have claimed 12 medals in their Olympic history, but are yet to clinch gold in any event.

  • Tokyo Olympics: Fraser-Pryce bows out with a silver as post-Bolt era begins Tokyo Olympics: Fraser-Pryce bows out with a silver as post-Bolt era begins

    Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce fell just short of winning a third Olympic gold medal in the women's 100m but is proud to have left behind a legacy on the grandest stage as she reiterated her intention to retire next year.

    The reigning world champion, seeking to become the first woman to win the same athletics event at three different Games following her success at Beijing 2008 and London 2012, finished marginally behind compatriot Elaine Thompson-Herah.

    Jamaica's Fraser-Pryce previously announced she intends to bow out of athletics in 2022 and will push ahead with those plans after adding to those two previous golds and the bronze collected at Rio 2016.

    "The Paris Games are some way off, and I did say this would be my last Olympic appearance," said Fraser-Pryce, who missed more than a year of action around the birth of her son in 2017.

    "As I said previously, I'm just happy to be competing at my fourth Games, doing it as a mum at 34 when people believe you're at the end of your career. To do what I'm doing now is a gift from God.

    "I haven't had my best moment yet. I definitely believe something else is there. This is my final Olympics, but I'm looking forward to the World Championships next year and that will definitely be my final season."

    Fraser-Pryce posted the fastest time in qualifying for Saturday's final, which saw six of the eight competitors finish under 11 seconds in what was the quickest women's final of all time.

    Thompson-Herah's Olympic record time of 10.61s saw her take a second successive gold in the event and Shericka Jackson completed a Jamaican one-two-three with a personal best of 10.76s.

    "I have respect for both of those ladies," Fraser-Pryce said. "Of course I'm disappointed – that was my first reaction. If you're an athlete and didn't run the race you wanted, you still have to be grateful for the opportunity and be happy for those who won.

    "If it wasn't for the pandemic I can only imagine what would be happening in Jamaica right now. Just speaking about the legacy that we have back home, all those athletes young and old, they are all inspired by something that happened tonight."

    POLAND MAKE HISTORY

    The women's 100m race was one of three medal events on Saturday, with Poland earlier pulling off an upset by winning the Games' first ever 4x400m mixed relay.

    Poland's team, comprised of Karol Zalewski, Natalia Kaczmarek, Justyna Swiety-Ersetic and Kajetan Duszynski, posted the fastest time in the heats and produced another great display in the final with a winning time of 3:09.87.

    It is the second Olympic gold medal Poland have won in a relay event in athletics following their success in the women's 4x400m at the Tokyo Games in 1964.

    United States are the world champions and entered the event as favourites, but they had tough time of things in qualifying – initially being disqualified before being reinstated – and finished third with 3:10.22.

    Despite being pipped to gold by Poland and silver by the Dominican Republic, USA competitor Kendall Ellis was pleased to simply be on the podium.

    "It feels great," she said. "It is so exciting to come here and run the first mixed relay at the Olympic Games, and to come out with a medal feels great. It feels like a win for us."

     

    SWEDISH ONE-TWO IN MEN'S DISCUS

    Sweden's Daniel Stahl lived up to his reputation of world champion by coming out on top in the men's discus to win gold, while compatriot Simon Pettersson took silver.

    Stahl was the strong favourite coming into the event and registered a distance of 68.90m on his second attempt to finish ahead of Pettersson (67.39m) and Lukas Weishaidinger (67.07m) of Austria.

    The last time Sweden took gold and silver in an event at a summer Games was in the men's 10,000m walk race at London 1948.

    Australia's Matthew Denny sent the discus soaring a personal best 67.02m on his final attempt, but that was not enough for a medal.

    "It's amazing. I am very happy," said Stahl, who became the first Swedish athlete to win an Olympic title in athletics since 2004. "There was a lot of hard work and fun on the way. I am extremely proud.

    "My training partner [Pettersson] has been working hard. We have had a lot of fun together for many years. I am very proud of my coach too for believing in us and having faith."

    POST-BOLT ERA BEGINS IN TOKYO

    Jamaican sprint king Usain Bolt won three straight men's 100m titles between 2008 and 2016, but he announced his retirement four years ago and the discipline is now wide open.

    The preliminary rounds kicked off on Saturday, with the headline act being Dorian Keletela – competing at the Games as part of the Olympic Refugee team – advancing to Sunday's semi-final with a personal best of 10.33s.

    In Saturday's other qualifying rounds, Cuba's Juan Miguel Echevarria spearheaded a group of 12 athletes to progress to Monday's final ​in the men's long jump with a leap of 8.50m.

    2019 world champion Tajay Gayle, representing Jamaica, had to have a bandage applied to his left knee after struggling in his first two attempts, though he still advanced with a jump of 8.14m.

    There were no surprises in the men's 800m heats, with all the favourites still in contention to take the title off David Rudisha, who is not competing at this year's Games due to injury.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.