New kidney, new hope... Merritt talks about coping with his struggles as he looks forward to better days
Eight months after undergoing a kidney transplant, world 110 metres hurdles record holder and Olympic champion Aries Merritt has admitted that it has been a struggle for him this season but is counting his blessings and hoping that returned health will bring returned form.
Days after winning bronze at last year's IAAF World Championships in Beijing, China, Merritt found himself under the knife as he was forced to undergo a kidney transplant. The new organ, which was provided by his sister, became a necessity after it was revealed that the US star had been suffering from a generic disorder, which left his kidneys operating at about 15 per cent during the World Championships.
That made headlines, but what is less known, is that the 30 year-old would end up back on the operating table some seven weeks later after a complication had developed that was basically crushing the new organ.
Merritt, told reporters ahead of his Shanghai Diamond League competition this morning, that he is in much better shape at this point, and although he still feels some degree of discomfort when he hurdles, he is expecting to be where he wants to be in time for the Olympic trials and a defence of his title in Rio.
"In September after Beijing I had a kidney transplant and then about seven weeks later I had a second surgery that many people don't know about. I had one complication that caused me to have to go back and have another operation so they cut me open again and internalise the kidney a little deeper," Merritt said.
"I was having difficulty with haematoma that had developed that was actually crushing the kidney and so after that was drained and after they stitched me back up I was able to resume training roughly in January," he added.
That is around two months later than he normally would and though he expects his delayed start to his preparations to continue to show in these early exchanges, he remains confident that he can make some solid strides in the coming weeks.
"I am fairly behind as I would normally start training in November but I feel like I will be ready when I need to be. We've been pretty much training through all these meets, I'm doing workouts like immediately after a competition and then I am doing workouts even still pretty deep into the season. Where I wouldn't normally be doing a lot of heavy conditioning I'm doing that now so its like I'm months behind my competitors," he admitted.
"But I'm still running decent and since the hurdles are so technical I'm going to try my best to technique my way through and as my speed starts to come online, I will transition my speed into my training, because I'm really strong right now, I'm just not very fast," said Merritt.
The athlete who finished fifth at the Drake Relays in 13.61 and sixth at the Doha Diamond League in 13.37 explained that he has been trying to get comfortable with the discomfort but believes his condition will also continue to improve.
"It has been a struggle, I tried to do indoors because the World Indoors was in America for the first time and I ran 7.58 but there was a lot of pain when my trail leg hit the incisional area so I had to cut the indoor season off and focus on outdoors. There is still slight discomfort when my trail leg hits my stomach in that region but it's just something that my body has to get used to," Merritt noted.
"It's different because it's still kinda swollen in the area where the incision is. It is a struggle but it's also not, because overtime it will get better. I don't want to make any excuses because I'm lined up with everyone else but it's different and it's something I just have to get used to," said Merritt.
Merritt sped to Olympic gold in 2012 in a season where he lost only two of his 19 finishes. He ended the year by running a world record 12.80 seconds at the Brussels Diamond League meet but bothered by the condition, which affected his energy levels among other things, has failed to go below 13 seconds since then.
Powered by a new kidney, he is hoping that this will be the year that all changes.
"I am great, my basic body chemistry is normal, my blood level is normal again as opposed to the last two years when I didn't have any oxygen so to speak, so I was always tired but now I'm full of energy and I'm ready to try to get back to where I was before."