Sprint hurdler Orlando Bennett made a mighty effort to make the 2021 Jamaican Olympic team – and missed. Bennett sped to within 0.01 of his lifetime best in the 110m hurdles but a fifth-place finish at the National Championships left him stranded. With this year’s World Championships approaching, Bennett and his long-time hurdles coach Craig Sewell have made a change that they figure will help.
Bennett is now at the Racers Track Club working on his speed in the camp that made Usain Bolt the fastest man of all time.
“First of all, the aim being at Racers is to get faster,” he said after a recent race over 100 metres at the National Stadium. “I’ve been working on that so when it comes to the hurdles, I just have to work with my coach Sewell and see how best I can control the speed and be technical and leave the rest in God’s hands.”
In 2022, Bennett has three wins in three starts, a 13.61 seconds victory at Velocity Fest on April 2, a wind-aided 13.57 in Miami on April 23, and on May 7, a 13.71 at the JAAA/SDF Jubilee Meet. Sewell, who coached Bennett to a 2018 World Under- 20 silver when the young man was at Calabar High School, is pleased with the new arrangement.
“So far, so good. I’m liking what I’m seeing in training. Working on the speed with the technique, improving on the technique day by day,” Sewell said.
The task ahead is monumental. Bennett summoned a season’s best, 13.28 seconds at last year’s National Championships and though he went on to win the NACAC Under-23 title for Jamaica, he could only watch as Hansle Parchment and Ronald Levy raced to the gold and bronze medals at the Olympics.
“I was basically injured most of the season, so I basically came out here and showed some guts,” Bennett said ruefully of his 2021 nationals efforts.
Parchment, Olympic silver medallist Grant Holloway, and Levy are giants, all standing well beyond six feet. Bennett reckons he has grown a bit since his Calabar days but he doesn’t dwell on the size disparity.
“I can’t let that bother me,” he said. “I mean God gives you what you get and you just have to work with it and make the most of it.” He is similar in height to Omar McLeod, Jamaica’s 2016 Olympic and 2017 World champion who is exactly six feet tall.
The job for the 2019 World Championships semi-finalist is to accelerate. By comparison, Parchment placed third at the Nationals in 13.16 seconds and McLeod was the fastest Jamaican of 2021 at 13.01. Other contenders will include Rasheed Broadbell, whose best is 13.10 and Olympic semi-finalist Damion Thomas, who ran 13.11 at the Nationals last year.
Sewell, however, gave Bennett the thumbs up.
“I’m looking for a good season, all things being equal,” summarised the Calabar hurdles technician, “he’s supposed to be up there.”