Wednesday has been a banner day for the U.S. track and field team, with perhaps the most impressive feat coming in the 110-meter men's hurdles. Americans occupied the top two podium steps, as Aries Merritt took the gold and Jason Richardson followed with silver.
No, not that Jason Richardson, the aging wing-player for the Orlando Magic; this Jason Richardson, the former South Carolina Gamecocks track star who won gold in this event at the 2011 IAAF World Championships.
Merritt, the reigning world indoor champion in the 60m hurdles, acclimated nicely to the grand outdoor stage of the London Olympiad, posting a personal-best time of 12.92 seconds, defeating Richardson by .12 seconds.
By finishing first and second, respectively, Merritt and Richardson replicated what American track stars Allen Johnson and Mark Crear did at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta -- which was also the last time an American won Olympic gold in the event.
"I've worked so hard for this moment and who knows if I'll ever get this chance again?" the 27-year-old Merritt said following the win. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime moment and I'm just kind of living it. I'm the champion. It still hasn't sunk in yet that I'm Olympic champion. I'm still in shock."
Merritt, who ran high-school track in Marietta, Ga., did not take up hurdling events until randomly clearing a chain-link fence with ease following a dare from a teammate. When his coach caught the act out of the corner of his eye, Merritt's speciality events changed.
"He was like, 'You're going to be a hurdler now,'" Merritt said. "That's pretty much how it started."
And the rest was history.
For more on the Olympics, check out SB Nation's London 2012 Olympics hub. And for a brief history lesson on why men must run 110m and women 100m in the hurdle sprint, read this so you can impress your friends.