Aug 7, 2012; London, United Kingdom; Aries Merritt (USA) competes in the mens 110m hurdles heats during the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports
Former UT track star Aries Merritt sailed easily through the first rounds of his Olympic event, the 110m hurdles.
Merritt had the the fastest first-round time in Olympic history, completing the course in 13.07 seconds, even after easing up at the end when it was clear he would win.
Check out photos of Aries & other East Tennessee Olympians in action
Merritt is one of the favorites going into the semifinals and finals, which will be Wednesday in London. Many experts predict the world record, 12.87 seconds, could easily fall during this meet, and Merritt, who analysts call the best performer in the world this year, could break it.
One of Merritt's key compeitors, China's Liu Xiang, who made history in winning his country's first men's track and field gold medal in the 2004 Olympics, fell when he hit his first hurdle. He also fell in the Beijng Olympics in 2008.
Merritt said he felt sorry for Liu.
"It was just terrible. For that to happen to one of the best hurdlers of all time is just a tragedy and I hope he's OK," said Merritt, whose achievement in running the fastest ever Olympic heat was overshadowed by Liu's distress.
"He looked fine before the race, like nothing was wrong with him. He warmed up great. He always has a good warm-up and he was happy and so I don't think anything was wrong with him going into the race.
"I just think he made a small mistake."