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Hurdler Holloway strikes gold with unusual career move

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Doha (AFP)

Grant Holloway turned his back on a possible NFL career to pursue his dream of becoming an Olympian, opting to preserve his health rather than risk his body in the unforgiving world of America's most popular sport.

On Tuesday, the wisdom of the 21-year-old's unusual decision began to pay dividends after he stormed to an upset victory in the 110m hurdles final at the World Championships in Doha.

Holloway held his nerve in a dramatic final that finished with Jamaica's reigning Olympic and world champion Omar McLeod crashing at the final hurdle and sprawled on the track.

Holloway, meanwhile, raced away in jubilation after crossing the line in 13.10 seconds, taking gold ahead of 2015 world champion Sergey Shubenkov, who took silver, and Frenchman Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, who took bronze.

"My goal was to get out and stay out," Holloway said. "There was a lot of stuff going on back there. But I was laser-focused. I executed."

It was a sweet victory for Holloway, a coveted high school gridiron star who had attracted interest from some of the top college American football programs.

Holloway, however, had other ideas, deciding that his health, and the lure of the Olympics, was more attractive than the NFL.

"The question I always said is 'Do you want to walk when you're 30 or be in a wheelchair when you're 35?'" Holloway said. "I'll take my chances going over some hurdles.

"I didn't see myself playing a contact sport anymore.

"Don't get me wrong, I loved football. I have friends from high school who are doing great things playing for other universities right now.

"But moments like tonight are what I dreamed of. I dreamed of holding up an American flag."

After leaving high school, Holloway eventually committed to the University of Florida, flirting with the idea of attempting to pursue both gridiron and track and field.

"I wanted to do both but my coach said 'If you want to be the best you can be, I promise you by the next Olympics you'll be ready.' And he was as good as his word," Holloway recalled.

Holloway's win on Wednesday was the crowning achievement of a season that has seen him compete in an astonishing 42 races in college and international level, not to mention eight long jumps.

His year didn't always go smoothly, however. His final event before Doha was a sixth place finish in the Paris Diamond League in August.

Holloway says the support of his close friends and family pulled him through the "rough times."

"When times got rough people gave me the blind eye," he said.

"But my inner circle stayed with me. They love me no matter what. I ran crappy at USA (Championships) and I ran crappy at Paris. But my inner circle stayed with me.

"When I lose, I keep my head held high. And when I win keep my head held high."

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