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Things got a whole lot easier for 110-meter hurdler Aries Merritt after the qualifying rounds.
His biggest rival, and possibly the favorite to win the gold medal in the event, Liu Xiang, failed to finish his heat after falling at the first hurdle. That means that Merritt can now be considered a heavy gold medal contender.
Even so, this does not mean a guaranteed win. One, there is still a ton of competition left in the field, and two, as Xiang's mistake goes to show, anything can happen under the pressure of the Olympic Games.
Although it makes his path to a gold medal much easier, Merritt realizes how much of a blow it is to the competition and to the fans expecting to see the best compete, reports Reuters (courtesy of The Vancouver Sun):
"It was just terrible. That it happens to one of the best hurdlers of all time is just a tragedy," Merritt said. "In the hurdles, if you hit a hurdle in the competition to recover is almost impossible. It is just a shame it had to happen to Liu because I was looking forward to competing against him."
Merritt posted the fastest time in qualifying with a 13.07-second run and has even put up numbers below the 13-second mark this year. If he can step his performance up to match his highest times this season, then the gold medal should be his.
The semifinals of the men's 110-meter hurdles begins at 2:15 PM ET, with the finals following at 4:15 PM ET.