Former East Carolina track coach Bill
Carson had a lengthy conversation with LaShawn Merritt on Wednesday
following the former Pirate star's double-gold medal performance in the
Beijing Olympics last week.
Carson said Merritt watched Jamaican
Usain Bolt's lifting technique in the second 100 meters of the 200 and
used a similar stride to pull away from 2004 gold medalist Jeremy
Wariner in the 400 last Thursday in China.
It was a return to a technique that
Carson had taught Merritt in Greenville. Merritt spent the day before
the 400 studying tape of his competitors before leaving them behind at
the Bird's Nest.
Carson speculated that a race may
develop between Bolt and Merritt in the 400.
"That could be a million-dollar race,"
Carson said. "I think Usain may be the only one capable of challenging
LaShawn in the 400 in the next few years. Usain may try to get all three
world records in the 100, 200 and 400."
Carson said Merritt's contract with
Nike runs out this year. Merritt signed a $2 million deal with the
sports equipment giant during his freshman year at ECU in 2004-05.
"It's going to cost Nike a pretty
penny," Carson said. "They won't get him for $2 million again."
Carson said Merritt has what it takes
to be an ambassador in track and field.
"I said all he needed to do was get
that medal and it would open up for him," said Carson, who will be
inducted into the ECU Athletics Hall of Fame this fall. "He's very
articulate and self-assured, but he's humble.
"He's not a guy who's going to
embarrass anybody in any way."
Carson said he had intended to watch
the replay of Merritt's race on Thursday night without knowing the
outcome but inadvertently heard the results on ESPN Radio as he returned
to his home in Cullowhee from visiting a friend in Kingsport, TN.
"That was OK," Carson said. "It allowed
me to watch and be thoroughly analytical."
Carson got phone calls for interviews
into Friday morning.
"It was kind of like one last hurrah
for me," Carson said.
Merritt kept his former coach's
attention in the ensuing 4x400 relay as well.
"They asked LaShawn which leg he wanted
to run and he wanted to run the leadoff," Carson said. "He said let me
go out and let's see if they can catch us. LaShawn ran 44-flat in lane
seven, which is tougher to do than lane four, five or six."
The United States team won the relay
race easily to give Merritt his second gold of the games.