ISTANBUL – When Aries Merritt shot out of the blocks to deny Liu Xiang victory in the 60-meter hurdles, he clinched more than just an unlikely victory.
The American hurdler, who was thought to have little chance against the Chinese great, won the title and cemented a record gold medal haul for the U.S. team at the world indoor championships.
“We psyched up everybody, including myself,” said U.S. captain Bernard Lagat, who won his own gold in the 3,000. “We came together as a team.”
It bodes well for a great show at the London Olympics. No other country had more than two golds.
Lagat, the Washington State product, was a prime example. At 37, he had a devastating kick to shake off two younger Kenyans over the final lap to defend his 3,000 title.
Starting Friday morning, Ashton Eaton began building on his heptathlon world record and shot putter Ryan Whiting clinched the first gold later that day.
The 10 golds were two better than the previous record. And several times, the toughest competition an American faced was another American.
As captain, Lagat came up with a stirring speech before the championships, telling his teammates to “run as hard as you can, jump as high as you can. Jump, pole vault. Because, you know what, this is the time. There’s no other time.”
Lagat won his third title by breaking free with 100 meters to go to beat Kenyan rivals Augustine Choge and Edwin Soi.
Lagat knew the Kenyans would set the pace, so he didn’t fall back and risk being surprised by a breakaway. When the final surge came, he was prepared.
Lagat said he thought to himself: “I am going to stay here because those guys are strong.”
Brad Walker (University High/University of Washington) won bronze in the pole vault, clearing 5.8 meters.