'Phenomenon' Oliver takes winning streak in his stride

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The Independent Online

Usain Bolt might have finally suffered that Kryptonite moment in the home straight of the Olympic Stadium in Stockholm last week, crashing to earth in a 100m race for the first time in two years, but there is another Superman of the track constructing a force-field of invincibility around him.

While the Lightning Bolt undergoes running repairs, David Oliver is on such a prolonged winning streak he has lost count of his tally of 110m hurdles victories.

"Is it 13 races that [you have] won now?" the big, square-shouldered American was asked ahead of his high hurdles appointment at Crystal Palace this afternoon, on the second day of the Aviva London Grand Prix. "I don't really know the math – just all of them," Oliver replied. "I don't really know what the number is. You've just got to keep on, keep on winning. I like doing victory laps, man. That's a pretty cool thing."

It is that – and Oliver is one pretty cool dude, blessed with the sangfroid of a Bolt but with lightning-fast quick-fire patter. And with a boat-load of talent, too.

At the Samsung Diamond League meeting in Eugene on 3 July, the 28-year-old Floridian broke Roger Kingdom's 11-year-old American (and former world) record figures of 12.92 sec, clocking 12.90. At the Diamond League meeting in Paris a month ago, he improved it to 12.89. Only two men have ever run faster: Dayron Robles of Cuba (12.87) and China Liu Xiang (12.88).

So, might we see a world record when Oliver lines up against Andy Turner, the newly crowned European champion, and William Sharman, the other great British high hurdler of recent times, at Crystal Palace this afternoon? "I don't really know about that," Oliver replied. "Nobody's ever run 12 seconds in the UK. I'm just going to go out there and try to get the win. I've just got to try to whup 10 hurdles." And whup the opposition, too.

Not that the man from Orlando has been doing that from the start of his track and field career. He began as a long jumper and triple jumper in high school but "sucked", as he puts it. "My team-mate called me DJ Scratch because I would scratch all my jumps," Oliver recalled. "Then I did the hurdles and started winning. They started calling me The Phenom."

A phenomenon and a Gooner. The Arsenal tracksuit he was proudly wearing was a bit of a clue. "Yeah man, I'm a Gunners fan," he said. "I like Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie. I've got a shirt autographed by Abou Diaby. I watch Arsenal on TV.

"I like the colours. I like the name. On the Fifa video game, I play with Arsenal. I've never been to the Emirates stadium but I'm going up to Liverpool on Sunday. I'm going up to Anfield to the game, see the red army play and, hopefully, get the win, 2-0.

"I can't wait. Honestly, I'm kind of looking forward more to that than to racing on Saturday."