Grant Holloway chose Florida track over Georgia football, then became a world champion
Coming out of Grassfield High School in Chesapeake, Va., Grant Holloway was a talented enough wide receiver to earn an offer from the University of Georgia. One problem: He wanted to be an Olympian.
So Holloway chose the University of Florida, which didn’t want him for football. He went to Gainesville to join a more successful program -- track and field. Holloway began competing for the Gators and coach Mike Holloway, whom he came to find out was a distant relative.
As a freshman, Holloway swept the NCAA 60m and 110m hurdles titles. He was fourth at the USATF Outdoor Championships, missing the world championships team by .05 of a second as a 19-year-old.
In 2019, he turned pro after his junior year, having swept the NCAA 60m and 110m hurdles all three seasons. In his last season, he also won the indoor 60m (no hurdles) and was part of a champion 4x100m relay team. From January to October, Holloway ran more than 40 races going into the world championships final in Doha.
Holloway is a hurdler of ritual. He writes “God’s will,” on his hand before every race. In Doha, he smiled before settling into the blocks and said “thank you,” a reminder to be grateful for his situation, going for a medal at age 21 against the globe’s best.
Holloway jumped the field from the start. As he cleared hurdles, after knocking the first one, he felt the man two lanes to his right. It was Omar McLeod, the Olympic and world champion from Jamaica.
“I call him Mr. Silk,” Holloway said, McLeod’s nickname. “He calls me Flamingo.”
McLeod’s hamstring grabbed. He hit a late hurdle and stumbled to last place.
“I could see Omar coming up. He’s coming. He’s coming,” Holloway told NBC Sports’ Leigh Diffey recently. “But then all of a sudden in a snap of a finger, he was out.”
Holloway endured, winning in 13.10 seconds and by .05 over Russian Sergey Shubenkov. It came one night after his roommate and friend since high school, Noah Lyles, won the 200m. Holloway and Lyles spent hours in a downstairs hospitality room in Doha, playing Super Smash Bros.
Next year, they could run in the same race. Holloway would cherish the chance to join the 4x100m at the Tokyo Olympics. The quartet with Lyles, Christian Coleman, Justin Gatlin and Mike Rodgers prevailed in Doha, ending a 12-year drought.
“I would love to do it, but Team USA, it’s a lot of politics behind it,” he said. U.S. track and field carefully crafts relay pools, considering chemistry and the fact it hasn’t won an Olympic gold since the 2000 Sydney Games. “My goal this year was to get a [hurdles] gold medal at Doha. … At that point, if they needed me, they would have called me or they would have told me to come to practice the next day.
“I would love to be on a relay. It’s one of my dreams to hold that flag and take USA out of the drought, but I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to catch too much backlash.”
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