Aug. 8, 2012
LONDON - In his first Olympic Games, former Tennessee Vol standout Aries Merritt jumped out to an early lead in the 110-meter hurdles final and never looked back as the U.S. Track & Field team member captured the Olympic gold medal on Wednesday night in convincing fashion at Olympic Stadium in London.
Merritt, who won both his qualifying and semifinal heats, improved his personal-best mark to 12.92 and finished steps in front of U.S. teammate Jason Richardson (13.04). His mark of 12.92 is the fastest in the world in 2012 and the second fastest time in Olympic history.
"I am so excited, words can't explain how excited I am right now," said Merritt. "The gold medal means everything. The U.S. hasn't had a gold medal (in the 110m hurdles) since Allen Johnson in 1996. It's phenomenal. To be here in this atmosphere is really special."
With gold medal favorite and 2004 Olympic Champion Liu Xiang of China crashing into the first hurdle in the final qualifying heat, and Cuba's Dayron Robles - the world record holder - pulling out of the finals midway through the event, it was Merritt's race to win.
Jamaica's Hansle Parchment took bronze in the event with a mark of 13.12.
The former NCAA Champion's gold medal is the sixth for the UT track & field program. In total, 22 Tennessee products - all representing the United States - have won 26 Olympic gold medals.
A seven-time All-American with the Vols, the 27-year-old Merritt is the first UT athlete to win a gold medal since former Lady Vol basketball players Tamika Catchings, Kara Lawson and Candace Parker won gold at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.