photo from Peter Baker Studios
Aries Merritt is the world record holder in the 110 meter hurdles. Hurdle races are one of the great traditions in the sport of track and field.
Over the next few days, I will spend some time observing the man who ran the 110m hurdles in an earth shattering 12.80 seconds. No one has run faster.
Last September, on a wonderfully cool and perfect night in Brussels, Aries Merritt had, for him, "an okay start. I did not want to false start, so I stayed in the block".
That meant that Aries got out of the blocks okay, used seven steps to the first hurdle, and had the lead by the time he cleared the first hurdle.
Hurdling is about " the controlling of your speed between hurdles". That little understatement was said by Renaldo Nehemiah, one of the greatest hurdles of all times and the man who broke the 13 second barrier for the 110 hurdles.
First let me explain the misunderstanding about world records in the sport of track and field. In most of the 290 odd countries in the world, the great sports are soccer, then track and field. In fact, 209 countries participate in global track and field, with just a handful more competing in soccer.
Most world records in track and field are amazingly high standards.To get near a world record, one must have great fitness, be in great racing shape, with either a fearless field or,in middle distances, a pacemaker.
A world record requires an athletic version of the perfect storm. Great weather conditions, a great track, a boisterous crowd and most likely, the end of season, where the athlete is calloused from racing. At the end of season, all athletes in track care about is fast races and perhaps a nice payday.
Aries Merritt trains in College Station Texas. He works eight months of the year on perfecting his event, then races three months of the year.
When one meets an athlete of Aries' talent, one is taken aback about how relaxed he is. How does a man or women put all that focus, talent and agility into 12.80 seconds? Aries is pretty relaxed off the track, and very businesslike on the track, well, until after the race.
In London, last August, Aries ran four races under 13 seconds in three days. His Olympic victory was flawless. A strong start, driving over the hurdles, staying on the ground for just moments before seven stepping between another hurdle. Repeat the effort ten times, then, dive for the tape.
2012 started off well for Aries Merritt when, in March, he defeated 2004 Chinese superstar Liu Xiang at the World Indoors over 60m hurdles. The 60m hurdles is a sprint start and run to finish for Aries. In Istanbul, Aries Merritt pulled an incredible run and a great start to his year.
So, over the next two days, we will learn what makes Aries Merritt tick. We think you will enjoy it!
Thanks for joining us!