Aug. 7, 2012
LONDON - Former Tennessee Vol and current U.S. Track & Field Olympian Aries Merritt set the pace in his first Olympic appearance Tuesday, cruising to a first-place finish in the heats of the 110-meter hurdles to advance to the semifinals.
Running in lane seven in the fifth heat, Merritt posted a time of 13.07 - the fastest mark of the day - to advance to the semifinal round. A World Indoor and NCAA Champion, Merritt's time was .16 off his personal best and .14 faster than the closest competitor in any heat.
"The round was extremely easy and comfortable," said Merritt. "I just wanted to run a clean round and advance."
Gold medal favorite and 2004 Olympic Champion Liu Xiang of China crashed into the first hurdle in the final heat and eventually had to be helped off the track. With Xiang not advancing, Merritt and Cuba's Dayron Robles are the two main competitors for gold.
"In the hurdles, if you hit a hurdle in the competition to recover is almost impossible," Merritt said. "It is a shame it had to happen to Liu because I was looking forward to competing again him.
Merritt will join U.S. teammates Jason Richardson and Jeff Porter in the semifinal round on Wednesday at 2:15 p.m. ET.