Eugene (US): Aries Merritt's brave bid to qualify for the Olympics less than a year after undergoing a kidney transplant ended in disappointment on Saturday in a dramatic photo-finish in the 110 meter hurdles final at the US trials.
USA's Aries Merritt competes in the 110 metres hurdles final at the World Championships in Beijing this May. Pic/Getty Images
Merritt, 30, the reigning Olympic champion and world record holder, had been attempting to qualify for Rio barely 10 months after his life-saving operation. But the affable hurdler was squeezed out of the top three by the tightest of margins, finishing fourth behind Devon Allen, Ronnie Ash and Jeff Porter. Porter took third in 13.206 with Merritt just a fraction behind in 13.22.
It was the end of a remarkable comeback from Merritt, who received a new kidney in September last year just days after competing at the World Championships in Beijing where he claimed a bronze medal.
Merritt later said he was mulling a protest, but USA Track and Field said they were unaware of any appeal being lodged. Merritt was ultimately left ruing the fact that he had not enough time to run himself into top form. "Given the circumstance I did the best I could with what I had but I still came up a little bit short," said Merritt, who revealed he had suffered groin injury at the Prefontaine Classic in Oregon in May.
"This is my fourth meet of the year. I haven't run any races. I had no indoor season, hardly any outdoor season, and for me to be where I am is a miracle," Merritt said. "It's a pity I'm not going to Rio because I know in six weeks time I'll be in much better shape and I'll probably be able to pull off something similar to what I did in Beijing. However that's not the case."
Yet after a year that left him fighting for his life, Merritt had no difficulty putting Saturday's setback into perspective. "I've come to grips with it. Nothing can be worse than being told you'll never run again, even if you come up short," said Merritt. "And I've been to the Olympics, I've won a gold medal, I've broken the world record. Someone else can have a turn I guess."
'Inspiration to others'
Merritt said he hoped his determination to comeback would serve as an inspiration to others. "People should just know that no matter what you're going through in life if you put your mind to something you want to accomplish anything is possible," he said.