But South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius made history when he became the first double amputee to compete in an athletics event, qualifying for the semi-finals with a season’s best of 45.44sec.
Merritt stopped running after 250 metres of his heat and crossed the line at walking pace. “This was my life’s race,” the 26-year-old said. “I have been around a long time, but I am still young.”
Pistorius, who runs on carbon fibre blades, said the occasion had almost overwhelmed him. “I was so nervous this morning. I didn’t know whether to cry. I had a mixture of emotions. It was the most amazing experience, the crowd was amazing. I saw the South African flag,” he said.
Most important of all for him was the presence of his grandmother, who has been a seminal influence on him since his mother died 10 years ago. “My grandmother, she’s 89, she was here with the South African flag.
But he admitted his thoughts had turned to mother Sheila, who left an indelible mark on him before she died 10 years ago. “I thought about my mother a lot today. She was a bit of a hardcore person. She didn’t take no for an answer. She always said the loser isn’t the person that comes last, but it’s the person that doesn’t get involved in the first place,” he said.