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Wheeler Grad Begins Olympic Quest

Aries Merritt continues his breakthrough year as competition in the 110-meter hurdles begins Tuesday.

graduate Aries Merritt has been peaking at the right time in his quest to be one of the best hurdlers in the world. 

Merritt and the rest of the field in the 110-meter race will run preliminary heats starting at 5 a.m. ET Tuesday in the London Olympics. 

Merritt, 27, graduated in 2003 from Wheeler, where he was a track standout with 2008 Olympic 4x400 relay gold medalist Reggie Witherspoon. After a slow start to his international career, Merritt has done his family in Mableton proud in recent months.

After winning the U.S. Olympic trials in June, Merritt, a former college star at Tennessee, was pegged as one of the favorites in the event, along with Liu Xiang of China and 2008 Olympic gold medalist Dayron Robles of Cuba. 

They're considered icons of their discipline, while Merritt, who broke the 60-meter hurdles world record earlier this year, is getting accustomed to the spotlight. 

His time of 12.93 seconds -- turned in on three separate occasions -- is the fastest in the world in the 110 meters this year.

“I’m not feeling pressure because I don’t think I have anything to prove. If I just do what I’ve been doing all season, something special will happen,” he said in an interview with the BBC.

He credits much of his technical success to a recent change in the number of steps he takes before the first hurdle -- from eight to seven, according to USA Today. 

Merritt, who now trains and resides in Texas, points to Liu as the favorite.

But his mother, Dee Dee Trotter, proudly told 11 Alive's Jon Shirek she doesn't doubt her son's chances of bringing back a gold medal to Cobb County:

"This is his time to shine, you know?"

The semifinals and finals in the 110-meter hurdles take place on Wednesday.

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