Low on kidney function, but high on heart, writes James Sullivan.
US high hurdler Aries Merritt achieved perhaps the performance of the World Championships to date in Beijing this evening. The American claimed the bronze medal in the 110m Hurdles, with a clocking of 13.04, despite admitting to suffering from FSGS, a rare kidney disorder which is predominantly found in African Americans.
“I’ve been operating for months now at under 20% kidney function, in both my kidneys,” remarked Merritt afterwards, who was narrowly defeated by Russia’s Sergey Shubenkov (12.98) and Jamaica’s Hansle Parchment (13.03). “They aren’t filtering properly, so they don’t work. So just to make the final was a blessing, and to execute the way I’ve been executing, just to be as mentally strong as I’ve been these championships, I feel like my bronze medal is a gold medal to be honest. Just to be here at these championships shows that I’m mentally tough and that I have the heart of a champion.”
The defending Olympic champion, who holds the world record of 12.80 revealed the impact his condition has had on his training, and how he has had to adapt his lifestyle completely in recent times. “I’ve had to alter a lot of my training. I haven’t been able to put in as many training reps as I have in previous years. I’m not able to recover like a normal person. I’m not able to eat protein as much as before. I’m not able to process potassium, so that means no orange juice and no bananas. It’s been a complete lifestyle change. I’m very thin now. I’m not as toned or as bulky as I was before. I’m about 6lbs under my world record weight. It’s been very tough for me these last couple of years.”
Despite his unlikely accomplishment in Beijing this evening, the 30 year old admitted that his battle to full recovery is far from over, and is planning to have surgery as soon as next Tuesday, with the hope of recovering in time to challenge for a qualification spot for next year’s Olympic Games. “I’ll be having a kidney transplant and my sister LaToya is the donor. I’m very optimistic about my surgery. I feel like I will be able to recover. You might not see me indoors next season, but hopefully training will go to plan and you’ll see me for outdoor season, and I’ll be able to make the US Olympic team.”