“THERE’S ALWAYS SOMETHING better we could do,” says Grant Holloway of his WR-tying 7.29 in the 60H semis at the World Indoor (T&FN, April). “The rhythm and the frequency were there. If you were to add in another 5 hurdles, who knows what would have happened. There’s always a lot of what-ifs.”
And the final? No disappointment with his gold-winning 7.39: “Regardless of what everybody else thinks, I’m the world champion. That was the main goal. I went there to be a champion and I came out champion.”
Still only 24, the Gator alum now sits on top of his event as the No. 1-ranked hurdler on earth, as he and coach Mike Holloway plan an outdoor campaign that will ideally lead him to a successful defense of his outdoor world title in Eugene on July 17.
After returning from Belgrade, Holloway met up with his mentor and put the gold around his neck. “We have our time when we can celebrate, we have our time when we can have some fun, but now it’s on to bigger things. We’re getting ready to defend our outdoor title, so we get right back to work and we take everything with a grain of salt.”
Holloway made his outdoor debut by running a PR 10.21 to win his section of the 100 (plus a leg on the 4×1 and a 43.8 anchor on the 4×4) at the Tom Jones Memorial in Gainesville. It was the latest outdoor opener in his career, but before the meet he said that’s more a function of how the schedule fell out rather than a grand plan, explaining, “I was supposed to start getting back into the groove of things at the Florida Relays, but we got rained out; I was supposed to open up in Bermuda, but the wind was out of control.
“Coach Holloway puts together the schedule. I do my best to execute each race. If I think I need more races I’ll tell coach Holloway, ‘This is what I think I need to do,’ but ultimately, you know, the trust is there. Regardless if I run races or not, I’m gonna be ready when it counts most — that’s the heart of a champion right there.”
In training, the two have stayed the course: “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Coach Holloway and I, we’re just in the lab, we’re cooking up something, something very special. We’re both excited for what’s to come.”
So far, says Holloway, all the signs are there for a solid campaign: “I’ve seen improvement all around. I’m a little bit more seasoned. I understand the event. I understand what needs to be done to execute my race plan to the best of my ability, focusing on my lane, my space. I’m hitting times in practice that I was hitting right before the Trials, so I know my fitness level is there. I’m in good shape. I know I’m strong, I know I’m fast. I’ve lost a little bit of weight, so that also helps out a bit.
“It’s just me staying locked on my craft. Everybody that knows me knows that I’m always finding a way to get better, whether that’s watching film or getting treatment.” Later, in third person he describes one of the transformations he’s going through: “Grant Holloway, he’s started to figure things out with the event that most people haven’t figured out in a long time.”
The recent news of Devon Allen’s signing with the NFL’s Eagles doesn’t remotely tempt him to change his focus. “I love these hurdles that I have to jump over. I don’t have to worry about nobody hitting me, touching me, clipping me. I don’t have to worry about none of those injuries. My hat goes off to Devon. He’s a great competitor that’s a good friend to me. I’m looking forward to seeing what he does. Hopefully I can get him on my fantasy team.”
Holloway leaves the bold predictions for the upcoming season to others. About the World Record 12.80 that he missed by just 0.01 last year, he says, “Aries Merritt set the standard for all elite hurdlers and it’s up to us to follow that standard, but I definitely think it could be faster.”
Will we ever see Holloway’s other skills on the track? Recall he ran a 43.88 relay leg in ’17 for Florida. “That’s up to Team USA,” he says. “The pressure’s on them. I feel like I’ve done everything to show that I’m capable of anything they ask me to do. If they need me for a 4×4 leg, I’ll be ready. If they need me for a 4×1 leg, I’ll be ready. I’m always ready. First things first is me taking care of the 10 hurdles in my lane. So I’ll knock that out and we’ll see.”
If Holloway has his way, fans might be in for another kind of treat after the conclusion of the Diamond League season — a match race with 400H star Rai Benjamin over the rarely-run 200 hurdles.
Holloway reveals, “Actually, me and Rai were just on the phone a couple days ago. We’re trying to figure what we need to do to get this thing started. Right now we’re thinking once we are done with the season, have a nice little off-season, off-brand race and just have some fun. We’re trying to get the ball rolling. I reached out to NBC, I reached out to ESPN, so it’s up to all of us to continue to strive for excellence and figure out what we want to do.”
In the meantime, fans can look forward to another season of Holloway crushing the 110s. “I personally think I am the best hurdler in the world right now,” he says. “That’s just my mindset, and I leave all the articles up to you guys, I leave all the praise up to you.
“‘If you’re not training to be the best, what are you training for?’ That’s the main thing I always tell myself. I’m always finding ways not to be complacent. I’m always working hard. There’s nothing more to it. When it’s time to show up, I know all my hard work is going to come out.”
He wraps up with a bit of philosophy: “Everybody’s here on this world for a purpose. Your purpose is to write the narrative of great athletes’ stories. My purpose is to go over these sticks and make people smile. Other peoples’ purposes are to coach, to mentor. You’ve got astronauts, you’ve got truck drivers, you’ve got teachers — everybody’s on this world for a purpose. My purpose is to do what I do, to go over these hurdles. God made these choices for us and we don’t really need to question it.”