Aries Merritt could have continued cutting corners in 2012. Instead, the now-world-record-holder decided he wanted to do things differently.
So Merritt rededicated himself, he said, and he came up with one of the best seasons of his life, winning and Olympic gold medal in the 110-meter hurdles.
A few weeks after the Games, Merritt added a blistering world record in the same event when he ran to a time of 12.80 at the Brussels Diamond League meet in September. The previous world record, held by Dayron Robles of Cuba, was 12.87.
"This was one of those years where I said, … 'I need to be serious. I need to really rededicate myself and really go for it and really do something,' because at the end of the day, we all want to leave our mark on history and we all want to be remembered," Merritt said during an interview with Flotrack.org. "That was something I needed to look at because I'm getting old."
Merritt, who competed in college for the University of Tennessee, is currently 27 years old. He expects to reach his athletic peak throughout the next three or four years, he said.
Part of that expected peak is due to his age, and part of it is because of the changes he made leading into the 2012 Olympic Games, he said. In order to perform at his best, Merritt forced himself to be more consistent at practice. He changed his diet, began supplementing properly, and he changed his steps leading up to the first hurdle, he said.
Merritt decided to change his regimen and routine prior to the 2012 Olympic Games because he wanted to chase his dream of being an Olympian. In 2008, Merritt barely missed qualifying for the team when he finished fourth in the 110-meter hurdles.
He was determined not to let that happen again, he said. But Merritt knew that, in order to qualify for the Olympic Games, he had to work harder.
"I thought that I've always been talented, so I was like, 'talent will take me so far,'" Merritt said during an interview with Flotrack.org. "That was something that I saw over the six years of my career, that I wasn't working hard enough, so I needed to work hard enough."
He added: "It was an Olympic year, and it was a dream, it was a passion, it was something I wanted, and I wasn't going to be denied this time. I wasn't going to not make the team."
It was his failure to qualify for the team in 2008 that propelled his success in 2012, he said. After the 2008 U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials, Merritt was devastated, and he was determined not to feel that way again.
"I was the first person to miss the team in 2008 and it was devastating, and I didn't want to feel devastated again," Merritt said during the interview. "I didn't want to feel what that felt like. It felt horrible to miss it and just the fear of having that feeling, that fear of not being able to represent our country on the biggest stage -- something that I've dreamed about all my life -- and I just wasn't going to be denied this time. So I worked super hard, especially last year, because of that."
Because of those changes and that determination, Merritt was able to leave his mark on history with an Olympic gold medal and a world record.
Read more from this author: Aries Merritt Breaks World Record in 100-Meter Hurdles in His Final Diamond League Race of 2012
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
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