Merritt focused on executing Rio plans

LaShawn Merritt plans to make his experience count as he aims to banish the memories of a miserable London Olympics by striking gold in Rio.

The American sprinter was crowned Olympic 400 metres champion in Beijing back in 2008 and doubled up with a 4x100m relay gold in the Chinese capital.

Merritt endured very different emotions in London four years ago, though, limping out of the heats with a hamstring injury and seeing Kirani James take his title.

The 30-year-old has put that blow behind him to qualify for the 400m and the 200m in Brazil, clocking a blistering 43.97 seconds to win over a lap in the United States trials and finishing second behind Justin Gatlin in the shorter sprint.

Merritt is not paying too much attention to his rivals as he prepares to compete in his third Olympics.

The eight-time world champion told Omnisport: "It's been eight years but it's been eight years of competing against the same people I'm going to be competing against.

"It's been eight years of travelling the world, running in many different countries and over these eight years, the 400 hasn't changed. It hasn't become 405 metres or 390 metres, it's still 400 metres so I just go out and execute."

When asked about his competitors, Merritt said: "When I'm out there on the track, it depends on what type of meet it is. I run several meets that are not as mainstream.

"I can run a meet in the Bahamas or I can run a meet in Rio, but when you get to an Olympic final, it's about executing and it's about knowing what's going on. So I still have to run my own race but know what's going on as well."

Reflecting on his 400m Olympic triumph in Beijing, Merritt said: "It was special. The year before that it was the World Championships and I got silver, ran the fastest time of my life and got silver.

"But I knew I could beat the guy who just beat me [James] so I worked my butt off and when I actually got to the top of the podium, I don't think I cried, I may have cried inside, it was just a happy moment for me because it let me know that hard work really does pay off."

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