TOKYO — Earlier this week, a reporter asked U.S. hurdler Grant Holloway to identify his rivals at the Tokyo Olympics, those who might possibly stand between the reigning world champion and a gold medal.
"Me, myself and I," he said. "Respectfully."
And even after Holloway's stunning silver medal in the 110-meter hurdles Thursday, that mantra held true.
The 23-year-old arrived in Tokyo as the heavy favorite but finished five-hundredths of a second behind Hansle Parchment of Jamaica, who won gold in a time of 13.04. Holloway repeatedly congratulated Parchment, saying he ran "a hell of a race." But the American also acknowledged that, as he approached the last few hurdles, he let nerves get the better of him.
"I got a little bit excited towards the end of the race," Holloway said, "and my form kind of broke down."
Another Jamaican, Ronald Levy, took bronze. And another American, Devon Allen, finished just off the podium in fourth.
Holloway had appeared to be near-unbeatable in the event this year. He had recorded three of the four fastest times in the world entering Thursday, including a brush with the world record at the U.S. Olympic trials in late June. And he hadn't lost a race in 2021.
In the course of a seven-minute conversation with reporters, Holloway used some variation of the phrase "it sucks" more than a dozen times. He was visibly disappointed with the result but not in a state of despair, understanding how slim the margins can be in a race of this caliber.
"It comes with the territory of hurdling. I've just got to get better," Holloway said. "It's nobody's fault. I was prepared, I was ready, I had everything in my corner to win. I just kind of just let my form get away from me, and that's the result.
"If I was to say I'm not upset, then I'm lying. But I have to be satisfied with the silver. I've got to go back home, got to work toward getting the gold again."
Holloway lamented the fact that Parchment, 31, had been in both his preliminary and semifinal heats, and that American had left with the upper hand each time. Holloway won the prelim by two-tenths of a second, and the semifinal by one-tenth.
But then, when it counted, Parchment pulled away.
"I was watching Grant from the first round, and at home as well during the season," Parchment told reporters. "I had to make some changes to my style. I knew I had to be closer to him from the start if I wanted to do better than him."
Holloway had long dreamed of winning an Olympic medal, going back to his high-school days in Chesapeake, Virginia. A four-star football recruit, he passed up scholarship offers from several top-tier football programs – including one from Georgia – to attend Florida and run track, in hopes of reaching the Olympic Games.
In Gainesville, Holloway was an eight-time NCAA champion and broke the collegiate record in the 110 hurdles. He then turned pro in 2019, and won the world championships in Doha, Qatar later that year.
This year has brought more success, including a performance at the Olympic trials in which he finished one-hundredth of a second off Aries Merritt's world record of 12.80.
"I'm kind of at the point now where it's like, what more do I need to prove?" Holloway said. "I've ran fast this indoor season. I've ran fast this outdoor season. I got a medal under my belt. ... I'm at the point now where I checked off everything on my box for 2021."
The U.S. won three golds in a span of four Games in the men's 110 hurdles, from 1984 to 1996. It has won only one gold since: Merritt's in 2012. Holloway still plans to be the next man on that list. "I'll be working my ass off 'til I get there," he said.
He planned to watch film of the race and talk with his coach, Mike Holloway, about what he can take from it. He'll compete at the 2022 world championships in Eugene, Oregon and already had his eye on the Paris Olympics in 2024.
Holloway didn't set out to finish second, obviously, but he appeared at peace with it. He had written "God's will" on his racing spikes Thursday morning, and said "this is what He's got for me today." He wasn't short on confidence, nor will he probably ever be.
"Every time I step on the track, I know I'm in contention to do something special," he said, "just because I'm Grant Holloway."
Contact Tom Schad at [email protected] or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.