The presser for LaShawn Merritt was with Femi Ogunode, the fine sprinter from Qatar. Two different athletes, Merritt is established, but looking for his legacy, Ogunode, coming up, with the hopes of making top three in 100 meters and 200 meters in Rio.
LaShawn Merritt has run 19.78 and 44.22 for the 200 meters and 400 meters this season. Will he double in RIO, more importantly, Eugene? Only time will tell.
Here is my piece on LaShawn, from the Doha DL Presser on 4 May 2016.
When you have a goal in mind, sometimes, it is better to start on that goal earlier. And, there is nothing like the present to being a long journey.
Which is exactly what LaShawn Merritt, 2008 Olympic Champion, 2009 World Champion did for 2016. ” I have not been in the position to start my training early over the past few years. In 2014, I need some time to recover from 2013, and in 2015, I did not start my training really until March, with my injury (knee). It was great to get going earlier for this season.” noted a relaxed LaShawn Merritt.
Now, LaShawn Merritt is one of the most relaxed guys that you will meet on the circuit, but in 2016, there is that Zen Master thing going. You know, confident, quiet, observing the world before he answers.
When LaShawn busted the 200 meters open, running 19.78 in his opener in April, that woke up a few people. “It was due to all of the work that I have been able to do this season. The early work paid off. ” noted Merritt. It did not surprise LaShawn as much as assurred him that he was on the right path with his new coach, Brooks Johnson.
You know Brooks Johnson, long time track coach, blogger and commentator on the world at large. I have known Brooks since the 1970s, and have challenged him on questions since then. The man has always been patient with me, which is not how he is with some athletes. The burden of seventy plus years of knowledge comes out in everything Brooks Johnson says and does. Sometimes, if the focus of Coach Johnson does not listen, or seem to use those life lessons, the retort can be tough and cutting. For LaShawn Merritt, those life lessons, that experience and that sense of where to position oneself are what Merritt needs in 2016.
LaShawn Merritt spoke about watching videos on his competitors, his own races and key innovators in the event. That is Brooks Johnson 101: become a student of your event: Live it, Love it, Watch it, Talk about it. Brooks Johnson, if you listen, will help you develop into a student of the sport.
Merritt is focused on the goal at hand, he won’t say it, but you know he wants it. His goal is to get through Eugene, unscathed and win in Rio. But first, he must tackle the toughest obstacle for the male American 400 meter runner: making the U.S. team. While Merritt and Coach Johnson have been to this rodeo before, LaShawn Merritt and Brooks Johnson realize that the stud 400 meter runners are getting younger and younger and LaShawn Merritt is getting into his prime running years.
“We will make the decision soon whether I double or not. ” noted Merritt. He was very precise about his words. My guess is that he will consider it, but not risk anything to compromise his 400 meter goals and his “legacy”.
That word, “legacy”, came up in LaShawn’s patois. That is another think moment from Brooks Johnson. Let me see how I can describe this: A man is only here for so long, and LaShawn Merrit has won medals, some big medals and has come back from adversity to beat the best in the world. What are they going to say about you, LaShawn Merritt, in the track and Olympic files (and yes, books), long after you are retired? The time to manage your legacy is now. Decisions mean something. Focus means something. That is perhaps how one of the most articulate coaches I know would speak to Mr. Merritt.
And it is obvious that Mr. Merritt is listening.
“There are alot of fast guys out there. Under 44.5, then, some under 44.2. If you can run 44.2, you can run 44 seconds.” is how LaShawn Merritt says it. From the Art of War, always give respect to your enemy (or competitor) in this place.
LaShawn Merritt is a 400 meter warrior, make no doubt about it. Like the Samurai of old, like the Spartans of Ancient Greece, LaShawn Merritt knows that his most important battles, on a Mondo 400 meter track, are coming up.
Who will he be racing in 2016?
Well, of course, Kirani James, who is 11-7 lifetime against LaShawn Merritt. And last summer, in Beijing, LaShawn Merritt got Kirani James, and got him good.
But, then, Wayne VanNiekerk got everyone in the Beijing final. Wayne Van Niekerk has been a talent for sometime. His win in 2015 surprised many, but it was the talent and drive of a competitor coming out on a day when there were many great competitors, but one who wanted it more. Now, Mr. Van Niekerk is the only man to run sub 10 seconds for the 100 meters, sub 20 seconds for the 200 meters and sub 44 for the 400 meters.
LaShawn Merritt gave Wayne the credit he deserves, but no more. ” This year is going to be fast, it makes the event a lot more interesting.” noted LaShawn. When L’Equipe’s Nicolas Herbelot queried about the World Record, Merritt answered with no hesitation in his voice: ” Is the world record in danger? I believe so, with so many athletes running the 43 lows.”
LaShawn Merritt told us that he is paying attention to his diet more than ever before. “I want to stay sharp, be ready for the US Trials and always improve. I am on a more strict diet that I’ve ever been on and I keep learning more. I am more passionate than ever and there’s a lot of untapped potential in me.”
For LaShawn Merritt, there is much more to come. His new coaching situation, with Brooks Johnson, is changing his outlook on his potential. Merritt is speaking about leaving a legacy, and for his competitors, that means he sees more victories in his column.
They should be very aware of this improved LaShawn Merritt. The recent LaShawn was pretty tough, this improved focus Mr. Merritt is going to be very strong over that last 40 meters.
Sports scientists will tell you that, a fully trained athlete can sprint all out for about 30-35 seconds. After that, lactic acid just builds up and most athletes are on their knees. For the 400 meter racer, that 30-35 seconds is where they hit the 300 meters, and their race is just beginning. The last one hundred meters, hell, the last 40 meters is where Rio will be determined. Do not be suprised if three to four runners are still in contention. LaShawn Merritt wants it to be him to be the one who guts it out, wins that gold and puts his name on the WR board right above one Micheal Johnson.
Let’s see how that goes in 2016.
On Friday, May 6, we shall see how some of the best 400 meter runners in the world run against LaShawn Merritt.
All I can say is, be prepared.