History may be in order, specifically a one-two-three-four order, in the men’s 110-meter hurdles at the World Track and Field Championships on Monday.
The U.S. sent all four of its men into the semifinals (11:05 a.m., Universal Sports), and all four are expected to make the final (1:30 p.m.) as well. The last time the U.S. swept the medals in an event at the World Championships came in 2007, when Jeremy Wariner, LaShawn Merritt and Angelo Taylor led the 400 meters.
Once before, the U.S. went one-two-three-four in an event, the 200 meters at the 2005 World Championships (Justin Gatlin, Wallace Spearmon, John Capel, Tyson Gay). Usually, nations are allowed a maximum of three entries per event, but in recent years defending world champions and Diamond League winners have received byes, adding to that maximum in some cases.
Americans qualified first (David Oliver), fourth (Aries Merritt), fifth (Jason Richardson) and eighth (Ryan Wilson) into the semifinals. The top three from the two semifinal heats and the next two fastest overall will make the final.
“If all the Americans run like they’re capable, we’ll have four Americans in the final,” Merritt said in a phone interview before the World Championships. “I don’t know if we’ll be able to pull off the sweep, but we can show we’re the most dominant hurdles country.”
Merritt is the most recognizable of the four U.S. hurdlers. He was one of the most impressive athletes in the sport last year, winning the Olympic title and then breaking the world record. He broke 13 seconds eight times in 2012, but he hasn’t done it once this year. Nobody has.
A hamstring injury has slowed Merritt this season. He finished third at nationals behind Wilson and Oliver in 13.23 seconds and improved on that in July (13.09, 13.14). He’s confident going into the biggest meet of the year.
“The only title I’m missing,” Merritt said. “If I can gain this title, my medal count would be complete. I’m really excited to have the opportunity to try for the trifecta (Olympic title, world record, world title).”
Richardson is the defending champion, though he crossed the finish line second in 2011. In that race, 2008 Olympic champion Dayron Robles finished first, but he was disqualified for hitting 2004 Olympic champion Liu Xiang with his arm following each of the last two hurdles. Liu lost momentum but still finished third.
When Robles was disqualified, Richardson moved up to gold and Liu to silver. Richardson was in third place coming off the final hurdle.
“It was almost like a Christmas miracle how I definitely thought I had gotten third in the race,” Richardson said. “Then it was turned into silver, then turned into gold. The 2011 hurdles race kind of shows you what’s amazing about athletics.”
Oliver, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, shockingly failed to make the Olympic team last year. He bounced back to post the fastest time in the world this year (13.03) and the top time in the first round Sunday (13.05).
Wilson, the oldest of the quartet at age 32, made his first world or Olympic team by winning the national title in June.
The U.S. chances of a sweep are boosted by the absences of Liu (injury), Robles (dispute with Cuba) and Orlando Ortega, the second fastest non-American this year who failed to advance into the semifinals.
The major threat to the Americans is Jamaican Hansle Parchment, who won Olympic bronze in London. But Parchment suffered an ankle injury in late June and competed Sunday for the first time since June 1. His qualifying time, 13.43, was 13th best and behind the U.S. foursome.