When Aries Merritt took the track in Brussels on Sept. 7, 2012, he knew something special would happen, he said. He was right.
The beginning of the race went the same as the hundreds of races that came before. Merritt lined up for his event, the 110-meter hurdles, at the Van Damme Memorial in Brussels the gun went off, and Merritt sprinted out of the starting block toward the first hurdle.
By the time he'd finished the race, the 27-year-old had run to a time of 12.80 -- faster than anyone else in history. In fact, Merritt ran so fast he surprised even himself, he said.
"When I saw 12.81 come up, I was just like, 'What? What is this I'm seeing?,'" Merritt said during the post-race press conference. "I was in complete shock. I just couldn't believe 12.81 popped up on the board, and then it rounded down to 12.80, and I just started screaming because I was in complete shock."
Merritt, who won the gold medal in the same event at the 2012 Olympic Games, had been hoping to break the world record all season, he said. In order to do so, Merritt planned on running a time of 12.85, just two-hundredths faster than the previous world record of 12.87, set by Dayron Robles of Cuba in 2008.
In fact, Merritt was so set on running 12.85 that he used the number as the password on his phone, he said.
"My vision was to run, when I did break the world record, was to run 12.85," Merritt said, as he laughed during the post-race press conference. "(The time) 12.85 is all over, like on everything. It's in my email. It's the password to my phone. So I was like, 'OK, I'm going to run a 12.85 when I break it.
"And then I end up running a 12.80. I think I need to change my password to something else."
The world-record time came in Merritt's final race of the 2012 season, he said.
Sandra Johnson is a longtime Olympic fan. While working for the United States Olympic Committee and living in the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., Johnson had the opportunity to immerse herself in the Olympic Movement. Follow her on Twitter: @SandraJohnson46