THIS ARTICLE COURTESY OF THE IAAF WEBSITE
THIS IS THE MOST INFORMATIVE PROFILE OF MERRITT, AN INTERESTING GUY WITH MUCH TO SAY AND THE GUNS TO BACK UP HIS COMMENTS. kk
LaShawn Merritt will be driven by the memory of his dead brother as he attempts to cause one of the upsets of the 11th IAAF World Championships in Osaka. Partly motivated by his love for the sibling who gave him his name but who died in tragic circumstances, Merritt believes that he can unseat Jeremy Wariner as 400m world champion.
Wariner is beatable
“Every time before I go on the track I say a prayer in my brother’s remembrance, so he definitely plays a big role in my success,” Merritt said. Aged 21, the World Cup 400m champion who sacrificed his promise as a musician for athletics – he played the trumpet, baritone horn and tuba before concentrating on track – is adamant that Wariner can be beaten.
Asked his prospects for defeating Wariner after finishing runner-up to him in Norwich Union Super Grand Prix in London on August 3, Merritt said: “He’s beatable – and I am going to be the one to beat him.”
Merritt, who has won 400m races at the Golden League meetings in Paris and Rome this season, added that he just needed to “fix some little things that are going to make a big difference.”
When it comes to the subject of where the name LaShawn came from, it leads to a heartbreaking tale. “My brother wanted my name to be LaShawn for some reason.”
Merritt explains. “When I was 1, and he was 5, he picked my name. My mum and dad liked it so that’s what I was stuck with. I think he said LaShawn because his name was Antwan, so he probably just picked something to rhyme.
“He passed [away] in ’99 though. He was in college and somehow he ended up out of his dorm room window (in Raleigh, North Carolina). He had got in a fight with somebody earlier that day and some people came to his room and he ended up out of his window on the fifth floor. I had just talked to him and they called me three hours later and told me what happened.
“Although my dad is a big part of my life, I didn’t grow up with him in the household, so my brother was the oldest male in the house and I looked up to him a lot. He was always at my baseball games, and my football games, when I was younger but he never got the chance to see me run track. So when I run I always think of him.
“Growing up wasn’t easy. I learned that nothing comes easy – that is why I am training hard to become No.1. Jeremy is beatable, I know he is beatable. Somebody has got to do it, so that is what I am working towards – beating him and getting that gold at the World Championships.
“From the things I have been hearing, the track in Osaka is pretty fast. It is probably going to take a little bit over 43sec (to win) and I think I can run 43 and change. There are just some small things I have got to correct – no major changes – a lot of little things that are going to make a big difference once I am ready to put it all on the track.”
Musical talent too!
Had it not been for athletics, Merritt might have developed his musical talents. “I used to play brass instruments – the trumpet, baritone, tuba – until I was about 17,” he recalled. “But I stopped when I went to college and started running track. I have not played my horn in about three years.”
At the Woodrow Wilson High School, Portsmouth, Virginia, Merritt was more than just a regular member of the marching and concert bands. “I used to write music that the band could play at football games, stuff like that,” Merritt said.
Multi-talented, Merritt’s first sport was baseball. “I wasn’t a big fan of track and field growing up,” he recalled. “I didn’t start getting serious about track and field until my freshman year in college. I started playing baseball at a really young age, like 5 – I played football also and I was always the fastest runner on my team or any other team I competed against.”
Coached by Dwayne Miller in Norfolk, Virginia, where he is studying sports management at Old Dominion University, Merritt believes he has found the perfect partnership: “He is a great coach,” he said of Miller. “He coached me when I was in high school. He is a good guy, knows the sport and studies the sport. He teaches, I listen. We make a great combination.”
David Powell for the IAAF