American Aries Merritt sets 110-meter hurdles world record
Aries Merritt, who won the gold medal in the 110-meter hurdles at the London Olympics, capped off a remarkable season Friday by smashing the world record in his event at a Diamond League track meet in Brussels.
Competing in his final race of the season, Merritt was timed in 12.80 seconds, cutting seven-hundredths of a second off the record set by Cuba’s Dayron Robles in 2008. It was the biggest drop in the world record since Renaldo Nehemiah sliced .28 of a second off the standard and lowered it to 12.93 in 1981.
Merritt, who trains in College Station, Texas, also won the world indoor 60-meter hurdles title earlier this year. “It’s been a dream season for me,” he said during a conference call with reporters.
“A dream season for anyone, I guess.... I knew it was going to happen, but I didn’t think I was going to run so deep under 12.90.”
Merritt, 27, credited a change in diet and personal growth for his success this year. He also said that changing his technique and learning the technical intricacies of the event enabled him to reduce his personal-best time from 13.07 seconds, which he set in 2007.
Avoiding injuries was also crucial: He said he has, in previous seasons, torn each hamstring, torn a quadriceps muscle, suffered a stress fracture in his foot and damaged ligaments in his ankle.
“I think maturity, and on top of that I switched from eight steps to the first hurdle to seven,” he said. “And I’m more lean and more fit. I’m able to recover faster. This is the first season I had no injuries at all. I was 100% healthy the entire year.”
He said he remembered little about his record-setting race, only that he didn’t hit any hurdles and was able to maintain a smooth rhythm. He has run eight wind-legal times of sub-13 seconds, three short of the 11 recorded by American Allen Johnson.
“Normally I have to back off. This was the first time I didn’t back off. I just kept going,” Merritt said.
He paid for his efforts with soreness throughout his body and joked that he wouldn’t be able to run again on Saturday. Not that he planned to -- this was his season finale after spending three months preparing for the Olympics and then competing on the pro circuit in Europe.
“I just took my body to a place it had never been before,” he said, “so I’m feeling aches and pains.”
His next stop is home, “where I can sleep in my own bed,” he said, laughing.
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