Brussels: Olympic champion Aries Merritt set a world record of 12.80 seconds in the 110-metre hurdles on Friday, upstaging Usain Bolt’s routine 100-metre victory in the final Diamond League meet of the season.
In a near-perfect race at the Van Damme Memorial, Merritt shot out of the blocks, didn’t touch any of the hurdles and lunged at the line with both arms flung backward to slice 0.07 seconds off the old mark set by Cuba’s Dayron Robles four years ago.
He already had the six top times of the season and had come within 0.05 seconds of Robles’ mark. But in balmy conditions with a slight back wind, he finally shattered the record. “It was almost perfect,” Merritt said. “I knew the track was going to be scorching.” So was he.
Merritt dominated this entire season while stars like Liu Xiang and Robles struggled to keep up and then both pulled up injured at the London Olympics. Yet even after the gold medal, he wanted something special to cap the best season of his career.
“I knew one day (he’d break the record), I didn’t know when,” he said. “Today happened to be that day.”
His goal was to clock 12.85, because in hurdles, records usually get beaten by tiny margins. Even his phone password was 1285. Time to change it to 1280. “I was in shock when I saw the time pop up on the scoreboard,” he said.
Jason Richardson took second place, way behind in a time of 13.05. Bolt, for once, was almost an afterthought. The triple Olympic champion ran a controlled race after a slow start to win the 100 in 9.86 seconds and win the diamond trophy for the top competitor of the season.