Aries Merritt
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Aries Merritt hopes to make Tokyo Olympics his last

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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.

MORE: Ato Boldon’s track storylines for Olympics in 2021

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Gregorio Paltrinieri swims second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history

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Olympic champion Gregorio Paltrinieri swam the second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history, clocking 14:33.10 in his native Italy on Thursday.

Paltrinieri, 25, missed Chinese Sun Yang‘s world record from the 2012 Olympics by 2.08 seconds.

The Italian now owns the second- and third-fastest times in history, including his 14:34.10 from the 2016 European Championships, also held at the 2012 Olympic pool in London.

Paltrinieri is a versatile distance swimmer. At last year’s world championships, he finished sixth in the open-water 10km to qualify for the Olympics, then won the 800m free in the pool in a European record time and finished with 1500m bronze, just missing a third straight world title in that event.

German Florian Wellbrock won the 1500m in 14:36.54 at worlds, with Paltrinieri finishing 2.21 seconds back.

Sun, 28, was in February banned eight years stemming from destroying a drug-test sample with a hammer in September 2018. Sun, who focused more on the 200m and 400m frees in recent years, did not race the 1500m at the 2017 or 2019 Worlds.

Top-level swim meets in the U.S. are scheduled to resume in November with the Tyr Pro Series.

MORE: Michael Phelps qualifies for first Olympics at age 15

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Bianca Andreescu to miss U.S. Open

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Bianca Andreescu withdrew from the U.S. Open, citing “unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic” compromising her ability to prepare to defend her Grand Slam title.

“I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level,” Andreescu, a 20-year-old Canadian, posted on social media. “The US Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss not being there. However, I realize that the unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level.”

Andreescu’s absence means the U.S. Open, the first Grand Slam tournament since tennis resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic, will be without both 2019 male and female singles champions.

Rafael Nadal previously announced he would not defend his title, saying he would rather not travel given the global situation. Roger Federer is also out after knee surgery. Women’s No. 1 Ash Barty didn’t enter, either, citing travel concerns.

Last year, Andreescu made her U.S. Open title run as the 15th seed, sweeping Serena Williams in the final. Ranked 208th a year earlier, she became the first player born in the 2000s to win a Slam and the first teen Slam winner since Maria Sharapova at the 2006 U.S. Open.

Andreescu then missed the Australian Open in January due to rehab from a knee injury that forced her to retire during a match at the WTA Finals on Oct. 30. She also missed the French Open and Wimbledon in 2019 following a rotator cuff tear.

MORE: Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis competition

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