Olympic Track & Field Results 2012: LaShawn Merritt Fails to Qualify for 400
After winning gold in the 400-meter dash in Beijing, American LaShawn Merritt was among the favorites to triumph in London. After pulling up lame in preliminaries due to a hamstring injury, however, Merritt failed to qualify for the finals and will not be able to medal in the event.
Americans have swept the podium in the 400 the past two Olympics, but that won't be possible in London as only two Team USA members remain alive after the first round of qualifying. According to the Associated Press, Merritt had originally suffered the injury in a tuneup race, so his Olympic expectations had been tempered a bit anyway.
Merritt returned to the track after a 21-month ban due to multiple failed drug tests, so he was already fighting an uphill battle in terms of preparation for the Olympics. Perhaps the injury is a byproduct of being unable to compete at a high level for nearly two years.
The American was also supposed to be an integral part of the USA 4x400-meter relay team, but it seems pretty unlikely that he will be able to compete further. Merritt's injury is certainly a crushing blow for the U.S., as he was a strong candidate to nab a pair of golds in London.
How big of a blow is Merritt's injury to Team USA?
At the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, Merritt took silver in the 400 and led his American team to gold in the relay, but none of that mattered most when he tweaked his hamstring in Monaco. Merritt still made the squad due to his name, but perhaps the better choice would have been to leave him out.
Team USA now essentially has a wasted roster spot because it hoped that Merritt would be able to fight through the injury. The first time Merritt had to push himself in these Olympics, however, the hamstring didn't respond. That has to raise questions about what the doctors saw in terms of the injury's severity.
There are obviously a lot of races left, as the track and field events are just beginning in London, but Merritt's injury really puts a damper on the United States' potential dominance. The American men have been eclipsed by Jamaica as far as the shorter events go, but the 400 is supposed to be a race that the U.S. owns.
In terms of the medal-count race against China, the track is where the United States is expected to get the bulk of its remaining medals. Merritt's injury certainly takes one out of the equation and perhaps two if the relay team is unable to regroup. Merritt was a big star in Beijing, but the 26-year-old may be reaching the end of the line.
Some track stars are capable of racing into their 30s, so perhaps Merritt will have enough left to compete in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, but London has to be viewed as a big missed opportunity for him since he is firmly in his prime and was on top of his game prior to the injury.
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