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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Mark Spitz takes on Katie Ledecky’s challenge

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Swimmers around the world took on Katie Ledecky‘s milk-glass challenge since it became a social media sensation, including one of the few Americans with more Olympic gold medals.

Mark Spitz, who won seven golds at the 1972 Munich Games, took 10 strokes in an at-home pool while perfectly balancing a glass of what appeared to be water on his head.

“Would’ve been faster with the ‘stache, @markspitzusa, but I still give this 7 out of 7 gold medals,” Ledecky tweeted.

Spitz joined fellow Olympic champions Susie O’Neill of Australia and American Matt Grevers in posting similar videos to what Ledecky first shared Monday.

In Tokyo next year, Ledecky can pass Spitz’s career gold-medal count of nine if she wins all of her expected events — 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles and the 4x200m free relay.

Then she would trail one athlete from any country in any sport — Michael Phelps, the 23-time gold medalist who has yet to post video of swimming while balancing a glass on his head.

MORE: Spitz puts Michael Phelps’ career in perspective

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Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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