Name: Aries Merritt
Born: July 24th 1985 (age 27)
Event: 110mH, 60mH (i)
Notable Achievements: Olympic Champion, World-Record holder, World Indoor Champion.
Aries Merritt is one of the most talented athletes on the planet and unlucky not to win the IAAF Athlete of the Year Award for 2012. Once again, the mighty Usain Bolt picked up this award, and, after a year where he won triple gold at the London Olympics, it is hard to argue that he didn’t deserve it. However, we were not being showed anything we hadn’t already seen before; neither the 100m nor 200m were World Records and Blake arguably came within reach of beating his legendary training partner. Aries Merritt had a fantastic 2012, winning the indoor 60mH World Title, before taking the Olympic 110mH title in a World Leading time of 12.92, winning back-to-back Diamond League races and running an incredible World Record of 12.80s at the end of his campaign in September.
His Rise to Prominence
‘I started hurdling from jumping over a fence in high school.’
Aries Merritt always had an abundance of talent but it was a case of making a successful transition from being a great junior to a successful senior athlete; and Merritt has proven he has mastered this after his supreme list of achievements in 2012.
‘Making the switch from collegiate to professional is difficult.’
It took Merritt eight years to get from World Junior Champion (2004) to World Indoor Champion (2012). He claims he made changes from 8 to 7 steps, which was initially difficult to execute, and also made lifestyle changes in terms of his training and his nutrition. And it obviously all paid off. One doesn’t have to be a statistician to admire his record eight sub-13-second runs last season.
‘My goal for 2013 is to be World Champion in Moscow, I’ve won World Indoors and the Olympic title and it’s the next step… hopefully I can become legendary in 2013’
Merritt has shown a strong desire to improve on his amazing season last year. He has high aims of adding the World Championship title to his list of gold medals and master his event through consistency with more sub-13-second runs. Merritt has claimed that if he accomplishes this, the 12.7 region is not out of his reach.
To Gay or not so Gay?
The topic of sexuality is rarely addressed in Track & Field and even in the present day, one’s sexual preference can cause a considerable amount of controversy. There has been speculation across Twitter concerning Merritt’s rumoured homosexuality but it is unclear whether anything has been verified. The man looks after himself; in an interview he admitted to getting his ‘hair did every week’ and wearing green contact lenses. This combined with his lips licking and camp body language has triggered a great number of responses both negative and positive. On the sad side of the homophobic minority, one can observe tweets such one can observe tweets such as ‘Something isn’t right… he’s too feminine… what’s the lips-licking about?’ But of course this is to be expected in a world of free speech and social media. More amusing positive responses included ‘He’s here. He’s queer. And he’s run 12.80. Sensational!’
Out of 10,000 athletes competing at the London Olympic Games last year, a shockingly low figure of 23 were openly gay (OutSports.com), so perhaps the sporting world hasn’t welcomed homosexuality with opened arms. Whatever his sexual preference, Merritt is a positive, happy person in his interviews and in general it seems that the stigma surrounding gay athletes is a thing of the past.
Merritt’s fans are used to seeing him sporting a rare sleeveless baby blue speed-suit, courtesy of his Reebok contract, but this year he will be seen in somewhat slicker attire after signing a new Nike sponsorship deal. The fastest hurdler in history has signed a three-year deal leading him through the 2016 season for the Rio Olympics. He has joined fellow hurdlers Jason Richardson and Liu Xiang with his switch over to Nike, perhaps the leading brand in Track & Field, and looks set to continue his dominance in world hurdling this year.
The World Record
On September 7th last year, Merritt confirmed his world dominance as the greatest hurdler of all time with an amazing 12.80 clocking in still conditions (+0.3mps) in Brussels. The Memorial Van Damme meeting was the final in the 2012 Diamond League Series and Merritt’s performance somewhat amazingly took 0.07seconds off the previous mark held by Cuban Dayron Robles, which was the largest world record time-drop for the 110mH for over thirty years. Watch coverage of the race here…