Wariner puts Hart back into retaining world title
By Pirate Irwin (AFP) – 19 hours ago
BERLIN — Jeremy Wariner’s decision to split from legendary coach Clyde Hart may well have cost him the Olympic title last year.
Now Wariner hopes having teamed up with his mentor again that he will avenge his Olympic defeat to LaShawn Merritt and retain his world 400 metres crown.
The 25-year-old enjoyed a dominance over the one lap distance under Hart’s supervision that had previously been enjoyed by another of the coach’s proteges, athletics superstar Michael Johnson.
Two individual world titles and the 2004 Olympic crown came his way as he brooked no opposition until the split with Hart - over money - and the emergence of Merritt combined to see him lose form and his Olympic title in Beijing last year, finishing runner-up but almost a second behind his compatriot.
Hart, who had been on 10percent of Wariner’s earnings but took umbrage when the athlete wanted to reduce it to five percent, admitted to the Dallas News in May that it had not been a pleasant moment.
“Definitely there was some hurt when that happened,” confessed the 75-year-old, who also has women’s 400m number one Sanya Richards in his stable.
“But you’ve got to think everything happens for a reason.”
Now, however, with the wounds healed Wariner is determined to show he is very much back and show Merritt that he is still number one after what he hopes was a temporary blip.
“I want to get back my ranking and defend my title,” said Wariner, who is a two-time Olympic 4x400m relay gold medallist as well as a two-time world champion in the relay.
“I want to show people that last year was just an off year for me, that I didn’t run the way I should have.”
Wariner, whose agent is Johnson, admits it won’t be easy.
“LaShawn’s a great competitor,” he said. “He’s getting better every year. I have to work hard because I know he’s working hard.”
Unlike Wariner, Merritt did compete in the 400m at the US trials - the former having gained a bye into the world championships as the reigning champion - and duly won it, and he hopes to rubberstamp his new status as the man to beat in Berlin.
“Now that I proved I could be number one, I have to keep it,” Merritt said.
"I’m more dedicated. There’s room for improvement … I have to stay hungry, stay humble.
Wariner had insisted his switch to coach Mike Ford wasn’t responsible for his failure to retain the Olympic crown.
“It was just unfortunate things happened. For one, LaShawn Merritt got better,” he said in March.
But since then he has returned to Hart.
“Coach Hart’s just a good fit for me,” Wariner said.
Wariner’s career-best of 43.45sec for the 400m - which made him the third-fastest performer in the history of the event - was set back in 2007.
He said his focus now is on regaining his own best form, rather than on Merritt and their next eventual head-to-head 400m showdown.
“That time will come,” Wariner said. "I’m not worried about that. I’m just worried about getting back to where I was two years ago.[/b]