EUGENE, Ore. - It looks like Allyson Felix won’t be the only sprinter at the Olympic Track & Field Trials going for a historic 400-200 double.
After laying waste to an excellent field in the 400 meter final with a world leading time of 43.97 on Sunday, LaShawn Merritt said he felt good. So good, in fact, that he will definitely run the 200 meters at the Trials and try to make the team in both events.
“I feel good, I feel good,” Merritt said. “So I think I will run it. It’s on Thursday so I might as well go and take a day, eat a little bit of good food and get focused for the 200.”
This could get interesting.
Merritt, who turned 30 last week, ran 19.78 in the 200 in April. That time was a personal best for Merritt and is still the leading time in the world this year in the 200. It also made him only the fourth man in history to run under 20 seconds in the 200 and under 44 seconds in the 400.
Unlike Felix’s well-publicized attempt to pull off the very rare 200-400 double in the Olympic Games, Merritt has been low-key and cautious about his plans. After the first round of the 400 on Friday, he said it would depend on how he felt after the 400.
Even after winning the 400 in impressive fashion, Merritt made it clear that the 400 was still his priority, but said he would “probably” run both in Rio if he qualifies in the 200 and if he is fully healthy.
“I’m not a hundred percent sure yet. I want to see how this 200 goes throughout the rounds. I do have the fastest time in the world in the 200 and I’m not getting any younger. I feel good after the quarter so I’m going to give it a shot. I look at it as if I make it in the 200 that would be great. I punched my ticket in the 400 already and that’s my main focus. My main focus is not the double, it is the 400. If the 200 doesn’t go as planned throughout the rounds I’ll just run the 400 (in Rio).
Sunday’s 400 final showed that Merritt is still at the top of his game and, no matter what happens in the Trials 200, the 2008 Olympic gold medalist will be a force to be reckoned with in one-lap race in Rio.
Former Texas Tech star Gil Roberts was in lane six, just outside of Merritt, and Roberts took the race out hard in the first 200 meters. Going into the last curve, he led Merritt by a meter or two. But Merritt closed the gap on the curve, and just kept pulling farther ahead all the way down the homestretch. Roberts finished in 44.73, which was .76 seconds behind Merritt. David Verburg was third in 44.82. This will be the first Olympics for Roberts and Verburg.
Merritt was pleased with the way he finished the race, especially his last 50 meters.
“I just worked the last 50 a little bit more than I did in the previous rounds. And I still felt like I had a little bit left so I’m pleased with that.
“I went to my arms a little bit, something that I’ve been trying to get right the whole year. I looked at some old film, and watched the old me. I did what I know how to do, and that was come out and work the body and work the last 50 . . . I’m rounding back into some good form and I’m pleased with it.”
Stay tuned. Watching Merritt go up against Justin Gatlin and company in the 200 starting Thursday could make for some compelling drama.