Merritt, Cotto Advance In Beijing
Aug. 18, 2008
BEIJING (AP) - Reigning Olympic and world champion Jeremy Wariner and rival LaShawn Merritt have qualified for the Olympic semifinals at 400 meters.
Both Americans built big leads and jogged home to win their respective heats. Wariner won the last of seven heats in 45.23 seconds, while Merritt led the fifth heat in 44.96.
"No surprise. He's ready. I'm ready. Time to go," Merritt said. "We're here. It's the Olympic Games. It's time for a showdown - a throwdown."
The once-invincible Wariner's biggest concern here figures to be Merritt, who beat him twice this year -- including at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Wariner played down the rivalry, saying, "That's not on my mind right now."
The pair finished 1-2 at the 2007 World Championships and own the year's two best times in the one-lap test of speed and endurance. Wariner has said he intends to break the world record of 43.18 set at the 1999 world championships by Michael Johnson, who now serves as Wariner's manager.
The 400 semifinals are Tuesday, the final Thursday.
In addition to Merritt's success, Hector Cotto qualified for the second roung of the 110-meter hurdles event, placing sixth in his heat but advancing due to his time of 13.72.
Round two of the event takes place on Tuesday.