On Friday in the final meeting of the Diamond League in Brussels, Aries Merritt shattered the world record in the men's 110m hurdles by .07 seconds. His new personal best of 12.80 bettered Cuba's Dayron Robles time of 12.87 run in 2008. Merritt, the reigning Olympic gold medalist and World Indoor 60m hurdles champion, owns the seven fastest times in the world this year. Below are excerpts from a national media teleconference with USA Track & Field.
How are you feeling right now?
“I feel like my hamstrings are about to explode. My calves are cramping up and I am in a lot of pain. It’s definitely more pain than normal. Normally when I run I don’t tighten up and I feel like I could come back the next day. I don’t feel like I could run tomorrow.”
Did you ever imagine a year like this?
“No. This is a dream season for anyone because I don’t think anyone has done this before. I’m still pretty much in shock. I knew it was going to happen but I didn’t think it would be under 12.90.”
Was there anything different about your training this season that allowed you to have such incredible success?
“I think it’s maturity and changing some things in my training. I went from eight steps to the first hurdle to seven. That helped some. I changed my diet. I’m more lean and I’m more fit from proper eating. I’m able to recover faster because of supplementing and proper eating. And this is the first season with no injuries at all. I was 100 percent healthy the entire year.”
Can you tell when a race like this starts that it’s going to be a good race?
“This race felt the same. I had been running the same times over and over but this time I know I didn’t slow over any hurdles. This was the first time I was able to not back down and I just kept going.”
When you talk about the pain is it because you ran 12.80 or is it just that time of year?
“It’s a little bit of both. I took my body to a place it has never been before outside of training. In a meet setting it’s completely different. I took my body to another level so I am feeling aches and pains from that. This is my last race of the season and I have run eight legal sub-13-second races this year.”
Your (previous personal best) goes all the way back to 2007. Can you explain some of the reasons for the success this year?
“The hurdles are one of those events where you get faster with age. You have to learn the proper technique so that is why some of the older hurdlers run faster. This year is one of those years where I just figured it out. It’s just a whole bunch of things that came together.
Can you explain how difficult it was to change from eight to seven steps to start the hurdles?
“The best way I can describe it is try to write in cursive with your left hand when you are right handed. It’s really difficult to make the switch. For some reason I was able to adapt to it quickly. I spent my entire indoor season trying to find my rhythm to the first hurdle. It was a consistency thing in training that I had to overcome. Once I got in a meet setting it became more consistent.”
What’s the biggest thing to happen to you this year – World Indoor, Olympic gold or world record?
“Everything was pretty good. I think Olympic gold is pretty high on that list. Not many people can say they are Olympic champion. World records come and go all the time. I could have the world record now but someone next year could come and it would be gone. But no one can take my Olympic gold away from me.”
You mentioned you are sore. Do you think in one week you would want to see how fast you could run?
“No. I just want to sleep in my own bed. It has been almost three months since I have been home. I just want to go home.”
Are you concerned the pain will make the flight home tomorrow a little challenging?
“Just knowing I am going back to the States is going to alleviate some of the pain. It’s just normal soreness. When you take your body to a level it has never been before it’s just normal aches.”
Where will you put the (USA Track & Field) Jesse Owens Award (Athlete of the Year) they will give you in December?
“I have no idea if I even qualify for it. If I win it great if I don’t then whatever.”
Was it a perfect race?
“I can’t remember it because everything happened so quickly. The only thing I remember is thinking to get my feet down because the hurdles were coming up so fast and I didn’t want to back off.”
Are you aware you have qualified yourself for the World Championships next year?
“I was aware of that. But I have to take it one step at a time. Hopefully I can be healthy next year and continue to run fast times.”
What were some of the injuries that have bothered you?
“Hamstring tears. I tore my left and my right hamstring. I have torn my quad. I have torn ligaments in my ankle and had a stress fracture in my foot. I have blown out my knee. Any thing you can think of that you can come back from has happened to me. Except a torn ACL.”
What benchmarks do you set for next season?
“I want to pick up where I left off and keep running sub-13. I want to be the person to run sub-13 the most ever so I have a long way to go.”
Click here for audio transcript (17:29)