Aries Merritt of the United States crosses the finish line ahead of Jason Richardson of the United States to win gold in the Men's 110m Hurdles Final of the London Olympic Games on August 8, 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
Merritt also improved on his personal best and World leading 12.93 – which he ran an incredible three times this summer – by one hundredth of a second to now stand equal sixth with none other than Johnson himself and two-time Olympic champion Roger Kingdom on the all-time World lists.
Merritt’s 12.92 is also the second fastest time ever run at an Olympic Games after Liu Xiang’s Olympic and then World record 12.91 from Athens.
"I am so excited, words can't explain how excited I am right now," said Merritt. "People were talking about a world record, but 12.92 into a headwind is still pretty impressive. I am happy with that.
"The gold medal means everything. The US haven't had a gold medal since Allen in 1996. It's phenomenal. To be here in this atmosphere is really special."
In fact, in a repeat of the Atlanta final, Americans grabbed gold and silver courtesy of Jason Richardson who claimed second place here in London at 13.04.
"It's been the combination of three years' hard work and belief in God," commented Richardson, the Daegu World champion. "I put everything I had into this today to stay on my feet and to win a medal."
The surprise of the day came from Jamaica’s Hansle Parchment who improved his own national record from the earlier semi-finals to 13.12 to claim his country's first ever high hurdle Olympic or World Championships medal of all-time.
"I did not think I executed as well as I wanted, but I got a medal so I'm happy," said Parchment. "I'm not a very fast starter, but it was good enough for me."
In what is now the third Olympic Games where at least one of the big favourites fails to either advance to the final or make it to the finish line in the final, defending champion Dayron Robles did not make it past the fifth hurdle, the injury that has hampered his winter and the early part of his summer evidently resurfacing.
In Athens, Johnson was the favourite for the title but he hit three hurdles hard and fell at the ninth in the heats. In Beijing, Liu Xiang and Terrence Trammell, both injured, had to exit via the back door unable to compete in the opening round. Here in London, it was Liu Xiang again and Robles who had to surrender to injury.
Although we would have loved to finally see a showdown between the best hurdlers of the year, no credit should be taken away from Merritt who has been the most impressive since winning the World Indoor gold medal in Istanbul.
The quickest out of the blocks, Robles found himself slightly ahead of Merritt at the first barrier and held on to a very marginal lead but it soon looked obvious that the American had more in reserve. As he moved to the front at the third barrier, Merritt worked hard not to make any technical mistakes over the hurdles.
Just before halfway, Richardson also moved to the fore and was battling it out with Robles in second place but the Cuban record holder would soon see his dreams of title defense over as he seemingly pulled his hamstring off the fifth hurdle.
Unaffected by Robles’ injury, Merritt and Richardson secured the US’s sixth and seventh medals of an incredible evening which saw them take gold in the women’s 200 and Long Jump too.
Lawrence Clarke who only made it to the final as the eighth fastest took a surprising fourth, the best place for Great Britain since former World record holder Colin Jackson’s fourth in that same Atlanta 1996 race.
Laura Arcoleo for the IAAF
- Aries Merritt of the United States crosses the finish line ahead of Jason Richardson of the United States to win gold in the Men's 110m Hurdles Final of the London Olympic Games on August 8, 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
- Hansle Parchment of Jamaica celebrates winning bronze in the Men's 110m Hurdles Final on Day 12 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 8, 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
- Jason Richardson of the United States celebrates after winning the silver medal in the Men's 110m Hurdles Final on Day 12 of the London 2012 Olympic Games on 8 August 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
- Aries Merritt of the United States celebrates after winning gold in the Men's 110m Hurdles Final on Day 12 of the London 2012 Olympic Games (Getty Images) © Copyright
- Dayron Robles of Cuba sits on the track, disappointed after pulling up injured in the Men's 110m Hurdles Final on Day 12 of the London 2012 Olympic Games on 8 August 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright