Taste of the NFL announces that 2008 2x Olympic Gold Medalist LaShawn Merritt will attend the 21st Annual Party with a Purpose® on February 4, 2012 in Indianapolis, IN. Merritt is a USA Track & Field sprinter, Team NIKE athlete and reining world champion of the 400M race after winning a Gold Medal at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. One of the fastest men in the world, Merritt holds the #1 World-Leading time in the 400M for 2011.
Merritt is a native of Portsmouth, Virginia where he graduated from Woodrow Wilson HighSchool. He spent one year as a college athlete at East Carolina University and signed an endorsement contract with Nike during his first season of indoor track, elevating him to compete professionally above the NCAA level against the world’s top athletes.
Prior to the 400M final at the 2007 World Championships in Athletics in Osaka, Merritt stated hisintent to beat all-comers. He achieved his first sub-44 second run, finishing in 43.96, and beat 2000 Olympic champion, Angelo Taylor, to the line. However, this was not enough to beat the reigning World and Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner, who was half a second ahead. Nevertheless, the silver medal was Merritt's first at a global championship event.
Merritt's Olympics success during the 2008 season was distinguished by a considerable rivalry with Wariner, who had won the 400M at every major global championship since 2004. Merritt went on to win the gold medal in the 400M at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. A close race between Merritt and Wariner was expected, though it ultimately ended in a rout. The 0.99 second margin between Merritt's first-place finish and Wariner's second-place finish was the largest in an Olympic 400 m final. His time of 43.75, a new personal best, made him the fifth fastest 400M runner on the all-time lists. He teamed up with Wariner, Angelo Taylor and 400M bronze medalist David Neville for the men's 4×400M relay. The team defeated the Olympic record mark which had stood since the 1992 Barcelona Olympics by running a time of 2:55.39, the second fastest in the history of the event.
In April 2010, Merritt’s career took an unexpected turn. At the height of his Olympic success and a flawless 2009 season, Merritt accepted a 2-year ban from track and field, but used his time wisely to do nothing but train and stay healthy in preparation for his return.
In September 2011, Merritt was cleared to compete as his ban was lifted. This also meant he would be able to defend his gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. At the 2011 World Championship games, Merritt set a world leading time of 44.35 in only his second race back to track and field. He went on to win the silver medal at the World Championship which was similar to his 2007 season in which he won silver at World then went on to win gold at the following 2008 Olympics. Merritt is currently training for the 2012 Outdoor track and field season and the 2012 Summer Olympic Games to be held in London, England. To follow him on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/LaShawnMerritt.