A hamstring injury ensured that Jason Richardson would be left behind when the U.S. Olympic Team departed for the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing. Four years later, the 110-meter hurdler stayed on pace to qualify for Team USA with a strong performance at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon.
Richardson, the 2011 Outdoor World Champion, continues to look the part of an Olympian this summer. He tied for the fastest qualifying time in the preliminary round of the 110 hurdles trials on Friday evening.
The former University of South Carolina standout matched Aries Merritt with a 13.13 in the event. Richardson and Merritt will meet again in Satuday's semifinal, one step closer to an Olympic berth.
Richardson, 26, was a top contender during the 2008 U.S. Olympic trials. Following a dominant senior year at USC, when he won the 2008 NCAA Outdoor Championship, Richardson entered the competition as a legitimate threat to qualify for the event final.
However, a hamstring injury required him to pull out of the competition during the preliminary round. Friday's performance effectively advanced him closer to his goal than ever before.
Richardson's aim clearly lie beyond Eugene. He is hungry for the bright lights of an Olympic stage.
“That’s where real athletes are made,” he told the Associated Press. “It’s not just enough getting on the team. There’s preparation for trials and peaking for the Games.”
Merritt, a talented hurdler in his own right, won't be easy to overcome. He was the 60-meter hurdles champion at the 2012 Indoor Track Championships, held this March in Istanbul, Turkey.
Richardson will also contend with David Oliver, the defending Olympic bronze medalist. Oliver advanced to the semifinals with a fifth-place finish on Friday.
Although he entered the 2008 trials as a relative newcomer, Richardson's 2011 title has changed his image in the sport.
“Now I’ve got a target on my back,” Richardson told the AP.
His goal is to block out all the noise, clear his hurdles and simply focus on reaching the finish line before anyone else. If he can accomplish that task, London likely looms in his future.
“The pressure here is to make the team but I don’t feel any pressure to win," Richardson told the AP when discussing the atmosphere in Eugene. "I feel zero pressure going into London. It’s all a decision with your mentality. I can’t change anything in the other lanes.”