By age 25 LaShawn Merritt owned one Olympic 400-meter gold medal, plus one 400-meter gold and two silver medals in World Championship competition. He’s also earned six 4 x 400-meter relay gold medals in major competitions. Speaking prior to the 2012 Olympics, Merritt discusses some of his career highlights in part 2 of this interview, conducted in May 2012.
Do you bring a different mentality to an Olympic final?:
“The Olympic final can be mentally tough. But at the end of the day it’s still 400 meters. … So at the end of the day, when you get there it’s just a matter of executing your own race. It’s still 400 meters and you have to just go out and give it your all, as opposed to running at another race where it may not be such a stacked field and you may be able to ease up. An Olympic final is about getting there and executing your race.”
In the 2008 final did you focus on Jeremy Wariner?:
“Him and (Renny) Quow, and I was keeping track of everybody else. I wasn’t just so zoned in on him. One of the biggest things is being aware of where you are. Not just one person, but it’s being aware of where you are in the race, while also running your own race. So it was a matter of me going there knowing what I needed to do, what times I needed to come in at certain spots to run a certain time. But also making sure the field doesn’t get away from me.”
When did you know the race was yours?:
“About 40 to go – 40, 30. I can remember looking at the Jumbotron and I couldn’t see anybody. First, I think I peeked over and I couldn’t see anybody beside me, but I didn’t know if anybody was coming up or not, so I just kept on running. And I looked at the Jumbotron and I saw nobody was behind me, but the thing was, ‘OK, finish the race strong.’ So I finished the race strong and when I crossed the finish line it was like, ‘All right, I won another race.’ Because my focus wasn’t to be all in this hype about this Olympic final. It’s still 400 meters. I’ve got to go out and handle my business.”
How did you chase down the leaders in the 2011 World Championship 4 x 4 relay?:
“Before I got (the baton) I was kind of pumped up. While it was going on I was like, ‘Man, I’m about to get the baton in third.’ But the people handled their business before me. I didn’t get it in first place, but they were depending on me to bring it home. I got the baton, I was a little excited before I got it, just because I had to run now: ‘OK, it’s time to run.’ I got it and caught up with the guys from Jamaica and South Africa and I was going to just go by them but I set and then they kind of started to box me in. In the press conference afterwards they were saying how they tried to box me in so I couldn’t go around them. But then you waste a lot of energy, because the split wasn’t even that fast. So I stayed within myself and didn’t want to pass on the curve because that’s a no-no. So I waited to the home stretch and I felt like I had a lot left. So I just bounced out to the outside at the end and took off. And it was enough to win. It was exciting, though. It was really exciting.”
Is track and field competition different, mentally, in your mid-20s?:
“I think you just have to continue to have fun with it. I enjoy what I do. Well, I don’t enjoy training. But I know that I have to train hard to be ready for an event. So once I get that through my mind then I enjoy training. I don’t enjoy waking up and going to training every day, but it has to get done. But for me, keeping it fun and continue to study and learn different things about myself and about the event so I can possibly get better.”
Is (World Champion) Kirani James a rival you’re focusing on for the Olympics?:
“It’s not even him that the focus is on. Getting to the Olympic Games, the Olympic final, everybody’s going to be there running. You have people who have PRs that are fast, 44.3’s, who are probably going to be in that Olympic final. So the focus isn’t on one person. The focus is going to be, getting there, knowing what people have done throughout the year, getting into the race and being aware of where I am. But at the end of the day just having to execute my race.”
Read more about the 2011 World Championships.
Are you still getting better?:
“Of course. I feel like each year I’m learning a little bit more. I may be working on different things. I haven’t run the perfect race, by far. My body, (in my) mid-20s, it’s kind of just stopped maturing. And I’m learning. Each year I learn something different. I’m studying the race and studying the event. So my plan is to get better each year until I get to the point where I’m attacking this world record. Once I attack the world record and I see this world record in my sights, then it’s, ‘How far can I take it down?’"
Check out Part 1 of LaShawn Merritt's interview, as well as Merritt's running tips, and a list of Olympic 400-meter medalists.