The 2012 Olympics haven't exactly been a banner showing for the U.S. men. The track team was in jeopardy of following suit of the Americans in the volleyball, gymnastics and water polo competitions.
The U.S. men managed a bronze medal in the 100-meter dash, but failed to qualify a single runner for the final in the 400.
Their odds of a medal in the 200 took a huge dip when Tyson Gay and Walter Dix couldn't compete at the U.S. team trials due to injury concerns, leaving their third-best sprinter at that distance to carry them in London.
Wallace Spearmon Jr. made the finals, but will be pushed by a trio from Jamaica and a talented field.
Headed into the finals of the 110-meter hurdles—which the U.S. hadn't won since Allen Johnson took gold in 1996—the men's best finish on the track was a surprising silver medal by Leonel Manzano at 1,500 meters.
Aries Merrit, Jason Richardson gold and silver in men's 110m hurdles! #TeamUSA— USATF (@USATrack_Field) August 8, 2012
In stepped Aries Merritt to pick up his American teammates.
He ran the fastest time ever on British soil, posting a time of 12.92 seconds. If Merritt had stumbled, Jason Richardson had his back with a silver-medal performance.
Merritt cracked the 13-second mark at the team trials in June with a 12.93. He looked smooth and comfortable in the Olympics final, cruising to the tape and establishing a new personal best .
Hansle Parchment of Jamaica won the bronze medal.
The men still have opportunities to add to their track tally. Spearmon could sneak in and grab a bronze, and the U.S. have a pair of competitors in the final of the 800—Duane Solomon and Nick Symmonds.
But all three of these competitors will need to improve their pace in the finals on Thursday to secure a trip to the podium.
The relay teams will also take to the track later in the week. The 4x100-meter relay team seems to be a lock for silver if they can avoid dropping the baton, but the 4x400 team will have some work to do.
Perhaps Merritt's effort took the monkey off the men's backs and replaced it with a bit of wind.