By Jonathan Batuello |  BSU at the Games

One step doesn’t seem like much, but for Aries Merritt it could help propel him to a gold medal.

Eliminating a step that is.

Merritt, one of the favorites in the 110m hurdles, had been using eight steps before he came to the first hurdle until December 2011. He decided to switch to seven steps and is now considered a favorite to win gold along with China’s Liu Xiang and Cuba’s Dayron Robles.

“It was very risky to make a change (in an Olympic year), but something had to be done if I was going to be able to compete with Liu and be able to compete with Dayron, and it worked out for the better, for the best,” Merritt said.

Merritt made the switch to be able to keep his momentum going through the first hurdle. He said he had to “slam the brakes” with eight steps. Now, he can keep his speed consistent.

Still, the switch didn’t become natural until the World Indoor Championships in February, when he ran a 7.43 in the 60m hurdles, Merritt said. By the USA Olympic Trials, it was second nature, and he posted a world leading time of 12.93.

“It contributed, it really helped with me gaining momentum going forward into the other barriers, but it’s the package of being healthy and training more consistently that also has made me break through this season,” he said.

Despite all his recent success, Merritt still doesn’t think he is the favorite to win Olympic gold. He gave the nod to Xiang, who is competing in his third Olympic Games, while this is the first for Merritt.

“I’m going into the Games with no pressure. I don’t have anything to prove,” he said. “If I do what I’ve been doing all season, you know, something special will happen, and, you know, I’m not a reigning Olympic champion, not a former Olympic champion, and I don’t have a world record or a former world record, so I don’t think I have any pressure.”

Jonathan Batuello is a graduate student studying journalism at Ball State University and an adviser and writer for BSU at the Games. Follow Jonathan and the BSU team at@jcbatuello@bsuatthegames and www.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.