Fast US London-bound trio: trials runner-up Jason Richardson, winner Aries Merritt, and third-place finisher Jeff Porter (© Getty Images)
Aries Merritt headlines a stellar 110m Hurdles field at the 39th Prefontaine Classic, part of the IAAF Diamond League, to be held on 1 June in Eugene. And after three top-five finishes in his past three appearances at the meeting, Merritt now wants to win.
Merritt sure knows how to flip a switch. After winning last year’s US Olympic Trials – held on the same track as the Prefontaine Classic – in a PB of 12.93, he finished the summer clearly unbeatable, claiming the London Olympic title in 12.92 and smashing the World record with 12.80 at the IAAF Diamond League final in Brussels. He became the first man ever to break the 13-second barrier 10 times in one year.
Winner of the Diamond Race last year, Merritt will be joined at the Pre Classic by a formidable field that includes all the London Olympic medallists, the reigning World champion, a former Diamond League winner and the holder of the Prefontaine Classic meeting record.
The most notable of Merritt’s opponents in Eugene is World champion Jason Richardson, who finished runner-up to Merritt at last year’s Olympic Games. Merritt owns a 17-9 all-time head-to-head record over Richardson, which dates back to their collegiate days. Nine of Merritt’s victories came in the past year, but Richardson was the only man in the 2012 season to beat Merritt three times.
No one has run faster in Eugene – or anywhere in the US – than 2008 Olympic bronze medallist David Oliver, who won the 2010 Pre Classic in a US all-comers record of 12.90. Oliver won again at the 2011 Prefontaine Classic, and his 12.89 PB – set in Paris three years ago – makes him the fourth-fastest man in history.
Hansle Parchment, only 22, set a Jamaican record of 13.12 to earn the Olympic bronze medal in London; the first medal of any colour in the event for a Jamaican man. Compatriot Andrew Riley also made history last year, becoming the first man to win the NCAA 100m and 110m Hurdles in the same year.
In a year when Moscow will be hosting the IAAF World Championships, Russia’s Sergey Shubenkov will be one of their big medal hopes. The 22-year-old set a national record of 13.09 last year en route to winning the European title. Already in 2013 he has bagged the European indoor 60m Hurdles title with a PB of 7.49.
Jeff Porter was the final member of the US men’s 110m Hurdles London Olympic team. Like Richardson, Merritt and Riley, Porter is yet another former NCAA champion in the field, having won the indoor 60m Hurdles title in 2007.
The field is completed by rising Cuban talent Orlando Ortega. The 21-year-old, who finished sixth at the 2012 Olympics, boasts a PB of 13.09 from last year. He currently leads the 2013 world lists with a time of 13.17.
Organisers for the IAAF
2013 IAAF Diamond League calendar
Doha, QAT – 10 May
Shanghai, CHN – 18 May
New York, USA – 25 May
Eugene, USA – 1 Jun
Rome, ITA – 6 Jun
Oslo, NOR – 13 Jun
Birmingham, GBR – 30 Jun
Lausanne, SUI – 4 Jul
Paris, FRA – 6 Jul
Monaco, MON – 19 Jul
London, GBR – 26-27 Jul
Stockholm, SWE – 22 Aug
Zürich, SUI – 29 Aug
Brussels, BEL – 6 Sep