Hurdler Merritt gears up for new Diamond League season

Shanghai, May 18 (IANS) American hurdler Aries Merritt, who won his first Olympic gold in London and set a world record in the men’s 110m hurdles last year, has geared up for the 2013 International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Diamond League Shanghai leg.

“I will try to start the season in my best form and hopefully I’ll be in my best so I won’t disappoint the fans that come to watch the competition,” said Merritt, 27, here Friday, reports Xinhua.

Merritt began the 2012 campaign by altering his approach to the first hurdle from eight to seven steps.

The risky move, allowing him to maintain his momentum going into the first barrier, proved to be a big success as he outshone arrivals such as Liu Xiang of China, Dayron Robles of Cuba and his countryman Jason Richardson to sweep nearly all the major titles in 2012.

In Istanbul, Merritt became the indoor world champion in the 60 meters hurdles, winning at the 2012 World Indoor Championships with a time of 7.44 seconds. At the Olympic trials in Oregon, United States, Merritt won the final in a world leading time of 12.93s, making the Olympic team for the first time.

At the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Merritt started by running the fastest qualifying time in the heats with a time of 13.07. In the semi-finals, he ruled again with a time of 12.94. In the final, Merritt pulled ahead at hurdle 3 to finish with a personal best of 12.92s, 0.12s ahead of reigning world champion Jason Richardson.

On Sept. 7, 2012, Merritt ran a time of 12.80 at the final Diamond League meet in Brussels, Belgium, shattering the old world record of 12.87 held by Dayron Robles. And he also pocketed the diamond prize for his consistent performances in Diamond League events.

In the Shanghai meet, Merritt will vie with compatriots Richardson and David Oliver, but local favorite Liu Xiang will be absent as he is still trying to recover from a potential career-ending injury sustained in the heats of London Olympics.

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