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.

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