27 (July 24, 1985)
College: University of Tennessee
Hometown: Marietta, GA
Residence: College Station, Texas
Coach: Andreas Behm
60m hurdles 7.43A (2012)
110m hurdles 12.80 WR (2012)
- 2012 Olympic Champion, 110m Hurdles
- World Record Holder, 110m Hurdles
- 2012 IAAF World Indoor Champion, 60m Hurdles
- 2012 USATF Indoor Champion, 60m Hurdles
- 2006 NCAA Champion, 110m hurdles
- 2004 IAAF World Junior Champion, 110m hurdles
- 4th, 2008 Olympic Trials, 110m hurdles
- Ranked #6 in World in 2006
- NCAA Championship record (13.21)
- 2006 NCAA Indoor Champion, 60m hurdles
- NCAA Indoor Championship record (7.51)
- Undefeated in 2005-2006 season (18 wins)
- 3-time SEC Champion
- 7-time All-American
As a freshman on his high school track team, Aries Merritt was nothing special on the flat. Then one day someone dared him to jump a fence. Luckily, his coach was watching. “You’re going to be the hurdler,” he said, and so it was. A background in gymnastics helped make for a quick learning curve, and in his senior year he went undefeated at the 110m hurdles on his way to a 5A Georgia state title before heading to Tennessee.
Among his many college highlights: at the 2006 SEC championships, where he ran 13.22, he broke the legendary Willie Gault's 24-year-old school record of 13.26; and two-time Olympic medalist Terrence Trammell's meet record of 13.29.
As a professional, Aries initially struggled to replicate his collegiate success, struggling with lingering injuries and technique issues, but Aries' 2011 season showed marked improvement. That year he succeeded in making the final of the World Championships and ended the year with a top ten ranking.
But 2011 was only a preview of what 2012 would bring. After adjusting to a new seven-step approach, Aries' performance rose to a new level. He won his first international champions in March, taking gold in the 60m Hurdles at the World Indoor Championships over 2004 Olympic Champion Liu Xiang. In June, he won the US Olympic Trials in lifetime best of 12.93sec in steady rain, his first time under the magic 13-second barrier.
At London, Aries led from the gun, defeating World Champion Jason Richardson for the sixth time this season in a new lifetime best of 12.92sec. Aries is the first American man to win the Olympic high hurdles title since Allen Johnson won it in 1996. In the weeks after the Olympic Games, Aries took victories in major invitationals in Birmingham, England and Berlin, both in sub-13 second clockings, which gave him seven legal sub-13 performances for the 2012 season, equaling the record for the most sub-13 runs in a season held by world record holder Dayron Robles, set during his 2008 world record and Olympic gold medal winning season.
Heading into his final race of the year at the Samsung Diamond League Finale at the Memorial Van Damme in Brussels, Aries' number one goal was an eighth sub-13 second run, to better Robles' season record. And better it he did: blasting from the blocks, Aries shifted into high gear and never looked back, never touching a single hurdle as he blew apart a world class field and came home in a stunning 12.80, taking down Robles' records all at once. Aries' historic run in Brussels lopped 0.07sec off the former world record, the largest margin of improvement since Renaldo Nehemiah first took the world record under 13 seconds in 1981. Aries is the first American to hold the world record in the high hurdles since Roger Kingdom last held it in 1993.