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Merritt changes secret codes to inspire new record

Aries Merritt of the U.S. competes in the men's 110m hurdles event at the IAAF Diamond League athletics meeting, also known as Memorial Van
Aries Merritt of the U.S. competes in the men's 110m hurdles event at the IAAF Diamond League athletics meeting, also known as Memorial Van

By Iain Rogers

BARCELONA (Reuters) - After Aries Merritt set a world record of 12.80 seconds in the 110 meters hurdles in September he changed his PIN codes to the faster mark he is targeting next year.

"My numbers have all been changed and it is a number faster than 12.80," the 27-year-old American Olympic champion told a news conference at the International Association of Athletics Federations centenary on Friday.

"Hopefully I'll be able to run remotely close to it," he added with a smile.

Atlanta native Merritt described his 2012 season, when he capped an impressively consistent year with Olympic gold in London before breaking the world record, as "just like a fairytale".

Also winning the world indoor title, he ran the seven fastest times in the world and the eight races in which he broke 13 seconds were the most run in a single season.

"I was landing back in the States and all I could do was just laugh because it was over," he said. "So I'm really excited about this year and about next year too."

His coaches had assessed his record-setting performance at the Diamond League meeting in Brussels and concluded that if he had not made a couple of errors he could have run 12.70, Merritt said.

"They said my approach could have been a little bit better and they said I kind of floated the last hurdle a little bit.

"They said if I fixed those two components I could have run maybe 12.70 but who knows. Next year my goal is to try to better what I've done this year."

SAGE WORDS

Merritt was appearing alongside three former world record holders in Barcelona, Briton Colin Jackson, 45, American compatriot Renaldo Nehemiah, 53, and the 89-year-old Harrison Dillard, the only man to win Olympic gold in the 100 meters and the 110 meters hurdles.

Nehemiah, the first athlete to run under 13 seconds and who quit athletics for a career in American Football, had some sage words of advice for Merritt, whose technique owes a great deal to his predecessor.

"I was just having lunch with Aries a few moments ago and he made the comment that it wasn't the perfect race (in Brussels) and I had to remind him that there's no such thing as a perfect race," Nehemiah said.

"You'll always find things that you can improve upon but that doesn't mean you can actually make it happen," he added.

"You're racing against other people, you don't control other people and you don't control elements but that's the beauty of it. I always say it's better to beat people than worry about the time because no one has ever beaten the clock.

"I think 12.80 will stand for quite a while. I don't think an individually by himself is going to run 12.70. It's going to take someone to go down there with him."

Jackson, now a television commentator, said he was at the race in Brussels and had told colleagues that if Merritt did not get the record there, where the conditions were favorable, he would never break it.

"The Diamond League was the right time, the conditions were great, the opposition was just perfect," Jackson said.

"Brussels is a great track to run high hurdles on so it all came right in a wonderful way and I was yet again jumping up and down like a fool in the stadium when I saw the clock."

Dillard, known as "Bones" and who also won two Olympic golds in the 4x100 meters relay, gave an insight into how far the hurdles has developed since he was competing in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

"At the time I held the world record it was 13.60 and now you wouldn't get to the next heat with that," he said.

(Editing by John Mehaffey)

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