At this point, LaShawn Merritt can almost feel the vibe of Copacabana Beach and hear the sounds of samba floating in the warm breeze. Rio is that close for Merritt, who will be leaving his training home at Walt Disney World Resort and headed to Brazil next week for the Rio Olympic Games, which begin August 5.
Merritt, who won two gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, is one of several world-class sprinters training under former US Olympic track coach Brooks Johnson here at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Merritt will compete for Team USA in Rio in the 200-meter, 400-meter and 4×400-meter relay.
We recently caught up with Merritt to talk about his experience training at the Disney sports complex, as well as his goals for Rio. Already he holds the fastest 400-meter time in the world this year, so he’s eyeing a gold medal and the 400-meter world record (43.18 seconds) set by Michael Johnson in 1999. And he could also become the first male sprinter since Johnson to win gold in the 400-meter and 200-meter in the same Olympics.