Merritt: “2012 was a breakthrough year for me, I need to make sure I stay on top”

Aries Merritt confirms IAAF Diamond League meet in Birmingham forms part of his plans for another “big summer”

Aries Merritt (Mark Shearman)

The year 2012 was a big one for hurdler Aries Merritt, but he knows he’s got some work to do if he wants to stay on top in 2013.

With world indoor and Olympic titles under his belt, the 27-year-old has confirmed the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Birmingham – part of the Sainsbury’s Grand Prix on June 30 – forms part of his plans this summer. A “big summer” as described by the world-record holder who has his sights set on adding world gold to his haul later this year.

The Olympic 110m hurdles champion set a stadium record of 12.95 in Birmingham last August before going on to shatter Dayron Robles’ world record with a time of 12.80 at the final Diamond League meeting of the season in Brussels in September.

“Other hurdlers are running quick times this year so I’m sure we’ll all push each other and put on a great show for the Birmingham crowd,” commented Merritt, who hasn’t had the best start to his season after he pulled up with hamstring cramp at the Shanghai leg of the Diamond League series and was then forced to withdraw from the Adidas Grand Prix in New York and last weekend’s Pre Classic meet.

“2012 was a breakthrough year for me but now I need to make sure I stay on top. I would love to add a world title to my Olympic one so this is another big summer for me.”

Another hurdler set to join Merritt in Birmingham is Olympic 400m hurdles champion Felix Sanchez. Tipped by Olympic bronze medallist Javier Culson as the ‘event to watch’, London 2012’s top three – Sanchez, Michael Tinsley and Culson – will line-up alongside world champion Dai Greene, who finished fourth in London and has been forced to delay his season after a hernia operation in March, as well as European champion Rhys Williams.

“I think I surprised quite a few people at the Olympic Games winning gold in the manner I did, “commented Sanchez, who took Olympic gold in London eight years on from his triumph in Athens. “However, I have never doubted my ability – whether that was when I was on my 42 race unbeaten run, or lining up on the start line in London as a 34-year-old.

“We will have the top four athletes from the Games in Birmingham, and I’m sure I will be the one they want to beat. I always get a good reception from the British crowd, but as much as they like me, I’m sure they will be hoping for Dai to cross the line first.”

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