World champion hurdler Aries Merritt works hard and plays just as hard. Video games, that is.
Merritt says there isn't much else to do in College Station, Tex., where he trains on the campus of Texas A&M with coach Vince Anderson and Andreas Behm. But that leaves plenty of time to focus on his new seven-step approach to the first hurdle and dominating League of Legends on his computer for hours.
"There's nothing to do out here," said Merritt, who will lead a tremendous 110-meter hurdles field at the adidas Grand Prix at Ichan Stadium in New York June 9. "There's nothing to do out here but train, eat and sleep. I think that's why you become so good when you come to a place like this."
OK, so it's not just boredom that has Merritt at the top of his game right now. The 26-year-old clocked a personal-best 13.03 seconds in Arkansas in early May. Prior to that, Merritt struck gold in Istanbul when he upset China's Liu Xiang for the world indoor 60-meter hurdles title in March. He said that finally being healthy, taking care of his body and zeroing in on his training has all contributed to increasing success, as well as his revamped approach to attacking the first hurdle.
"I've actually been able to mimic my eight-step pattern with seven steps. One less step," Merritt said. "So I'm going through the first hurdle faster than I've ever gone and generating more momentum than I've ever done before. That's the reason for the change."
But with the plethora of talented American hurdlers, the rising star said one of the biggest obstacles is simply making it through the Olympic Trials.
"I do think the Trials are harder than the Olympics because there are nine Americans that can run extremely well," Merritt said. "Jason (Richardson), David (Oliver), myself, Dexter (Faulk), Terrance Trammell, David Payne. Any American can make the team so it's just going to be ridiculous."
And it's not like Merritt won't be familiar with the field. Hurdlers tend not to shy away from the best competition, as will be the case at the adidas Grand Prix when Merritt squares off with the likes Oliver and Richardson again.
Check out the videos below to go "behind the scenes" with Aries and his dogs, dance moves, video game addiction and banter with Coach Andreas.
Chillin' With Aries
Andreas vs. Aries