Aries Merritt in the 110m hurdles at the IAAF World Championships (© AFP / Getty Images)
Olympic champion and world 110m hurdles record-holder Aries Merritt offers his verdict some important elements to his life, both on and off the track.
My best achievement
That’s tough. It is hard for me to choose between my world record and becoming Olympic champion. The pinnacle of success in the sport is to be Olympic champion but to become world record-holder and to be the fastest ever in your event is also a pinnacle. If I had to choose, I would say being the Olympic champion because it can never be taken away but the world record can always be broken – even though I hope it will never be broken, except by me!
The best piece of coaching advice
To just be patient because, as an athlete, success doesn’t come immediately. This piece of advice was instilled into me by Vince Anderson, my coach before my current coach Andreas Behm and whom Andreas worked under. Vince said to me, ‘you are not suddenly going to drop from a 13.7 110m hurdler to 13.2 in one go.’ He was right. What I’ve done is to just chip away until I got my times to drop.
My greatest rival
Domestically I would say Jason Richardson because we competed together at college and we have run against each other as pros. Internationally, I would say Dayron Robles because we have been competing against each other since the 2004 World Juniors in Grosseto.
My best friend in athletics
I try to be friendly with everyone, but my greatest friend would be Kerron Clement (the 2007 and 2009 world 400m hurdles champion) because we’ve known each other since we were 16 years old. We have been friends for so long, I feel that he could talk to me about anything and I could talk to him about anything and that he would be my greatest friend.
My greatest disappointment
By far it would be missing the Olympic team in 2008. I was supposed to make the team but I came in fourth at the US Trials – and fourth is toast in America (with the system of the first three past the post making Olympic teams, Aries missed third spot by 0.02 to David Payne). Not making the team in 2008 gave me a lot of drive moving forward.
The greatest athlete I’ve ever seen
It would have to be Usain Bolt. He is incredible; one of the best, if not the best ever. He always shows up at major championships and competes at his best. At major champs he is always ready to go and there is something about his poise, his confidence – he’s a great athlete. I’ve seen some great athletes in my time, but he is the greatest.
My greatest indulgence
Gaming. I’m an addict. I’m always playing a video game on the circuit either holding some sort of hand-held system or playing my computer in my room. It is what I do!
The best song I’ve ever heard
I’m a really big Nicki Minaj fan and I really like Moment 4 Life .It is a song which says, I wish I could have this moment for life and drive to be successful. Once you get there it is like, ‘wow you’ve achieved it and don’t want to let it go’.
My biggest regret
Not taking the sport as serious as I should have in my younger years. I took the sport for granted and thought I was so talented that the talent alone would take me to the top. Yet when people started beating me, who were working harder than me but maybe didn’t have as much talent as me, it really opened my eyes. I had to really sit down and re-evaluate my life at that point.
My greatest achievement outside of athletics
Coaching athletes who went on to college on full scholarships at division one universities. Just seeing an athlete grow and learn and to be able to compete at a collegiate level was an amazing feeling.
Steve Landells for the IAAF