Aries Merritt hopes to make Tokyo Olympics his last

Aries Merritt
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Aries Merritt, an Olympic 110m hurdles champion and world-record holder who came back from a kidney transplant, said the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 will be his final Games, should he qualify.

“I’ll be way too old to do another Olympics,” Merritt, 34, said in an Instagram Live chat with Blake Boldon, the meet director for the Drake Relays, which would have been held this weekend if not for the coronavirus pandemic.

Merritt said he would probably compete in 2022 in a bid for the world championships in Eugene, Ore.

“But after that, I’m definitely going to retire,” he said. “That will be the end of my story as an athlete. … I’ll probably end up coaching because I love to coach and I love to give back to the sport that’s been so gracious to me. I’d love to dabble in that. Maybe some motivational speaking here and there.”

Merritt has quite a story to tell.

In 2015, he earned a world championships bronze medal with kidney function at less than 20 percent. He underwent a transplant after returning from Beijing — receiving a kidney from sister LaToya.

Ten months later, Merritt missed the Rio Olympic team by .01 at trials. In 2017, he finished second at the USATF Outdoor Championships and fifth at the world championships.

He competed just once in 2019, but said Friday that he was healthy and ready to race this season. He still trains three times a week in the Phoenix area but is being extra cautious as somebody who is immunosuppressed.

“I’m not even supposed to be running,” Merritt said at 2017 Worlds. “So just me being here in the final is definitely a blessing.”

In 2012, Merritt put up the best season in hurdles history. He came into the year having never broken 13 seconds. By the end, he had done it 10 times (two were not wind-legal), won the Olympic title and lowered the world record to 12.80 seconds, which still stands.

“I’m so happy I’m finally living up to my potential after all this time with injuries and hamstring tears and so many people telling me I should throw in the towel and get a normal job,” Merritt said after the world record.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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