BEIJING (Reuters) - Olympic champion Aries Merritt claimed an extraordinary bronze medal days before he undergoes a kidney transplant as Russian Sergey Shubenkov stormed to the world 110 meters hurdles title on Friday.
Shubenkov was left dumbfounded after flying over the hurdles to take a clear lead off the final barrier and crossing the line for his first global championship gold in 12.98 seconds.
“I can’t describe what I‘m feeling,” the 24-year-old told reporters after breaking the Russian record.
”I don’t remember anything about the race. I heard the starting gun and then I opened my eyes and it was finished.
“I wondered whether it was really happening, whether I might wake up. This is the best day of my life.”
Hansle Parchment of Jamaica was second in 13.03 with world record holder Merritt third in 13.04 seconds, his best run of the year.
American Merritt, who was told he would never run again after being diagnosed with kidney disease in 2013, will receive the new organ from his sister in Arizona next week.
The 30-year-old got off to his usual explosive start and had an early lead before his lack of training took its toll and he faded over the final hurdles.
”How is that possible? I don’t know,“ he said. ”I just kept a level head and did what needed to be done and completed my race to the best of my ability.
”But given the circumstances, I think it was my best race of the year and I came away with a medal, just as I had hoped to.
“It almost means more to me than my Olympic gold, the state I‘m in, the training I’ve done, it’s been very difficult, very hard. The struggle is real.”
Parchment, bronze medalist behind Merritt at the London Olympics, was happy with silver.
“The conditions, the temperature, everything was working for me,” said thee 25-year-old.
“I managed to run smooth and kept my composure over the hurdles despite not feeling much strength this time.”
Defending champion David Oliver of the United States hit three of his first four hurdles and was never in the race, finishing seventh in 13.33 seconds.
Merritt had a brilliant 2012, winning gold at the London Olympics and shattering the world record with a time of 12.80 seconds at the Brussels Diamond League meeting.
It was after he finished sixth at the 2013 world championships that his illness was diagnosed and he only revealed this week that he was going to have the transplant.
He was not sure whether he would recover in time for next year’s Olympics.
”I don’t know,“ he said. ”If I recover quickly, you’ll see me back soon, if I don’t you know I‘m still recovering.
“There’s a chance that you won’t see me next year, but I‘m going to be optimistic and say I hope to see you in Rio.”
Editing by Ed Osmond