Aries Merritt was told less than two years ago that he may never be able to run again, and on Sept. 1, he is set for a kidney transplant, according to the IAAF.
But next Friday, the Olympic champion and world-record holder hopes to sprint in the 110m hurdles final at the World Track and Field Championships in Beijing.
“When they told me I had kidney disease, I was heartbroken,” Merritt said, according to the IAAF. “Not being able to do the thing I love doing so much was very painful to come to terms with. I was in denial and for a while I was in a very depressed state of mind. I was happy they found the problem but I didn’t understand why it was happening to me after such an amazing season in 2012.”
Merritt, 30, captured the Olympic 110m hurdles title on Aug. 8, 2012. He broke the world record on Sept. 7, 2012. He finished sixth at the World Championships on Aug. 12, 2013, during a frustrating stretch when he tore a hamstring five times in two seasons, according to the IAAF.
It was at the 2013 World Championships that Merritt said he “noticed that something was wrong,” and he was diagnosed with kidney disease later that year, down to 15 percent of his kidney function and due to a rare genetic disorder, according to the report.
Merritt qualified for these World Championships by finishing third at the U.S. Championships on June 28. His best time since his world record of 12.80 is 13.09, clocked in 2013, and he ranks eighth in the world this year.
Merritt’s kidney function is currently less than 20 percent, and he feels 75 percent overall compared to his 2012 form, according to the IAAF.