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Wariner says he didn't dodge Merritt in Athens

By Steve Campbell, World-Track

PARIS — World 400-metres champion Jeremy Wariner played down reports that he dodged a meeting with fellow countryman and Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt at the Athens Grand Prix on Monday (12).

warinerThe pre-meeting entries had the pair featuring in their first one-lap clash for the season, but that did not materialized as Wariner raced in Lignano the day before.

Asked to explain the reason for the change, Wariner said it was not on his schedule.

“I’ve no idea, the (racing) schedule I was given always had Lignano (12 July) on it," the American said at the press conference for Friday’s Meeting Areva. "You’ll have to ask my management about Athens."

A lot of changes took place in Wariner’s track career in the last year, including a split with long time coach Clyde Hart and defeat at the Olympics in Beijing to Merritt.

However, after taking time to make a review of his 2008 season, the two-time world champion and 2004 Olympic gold medallist returned to Hart’s camp earlier this year and admitted to losing his focus.

"Last year I lost my focus," Wariner explained. "I hit a little bump in the road in my career.

“I was disappointed last season…I’m using that as my motivation for this year.”

Commonly known as a notorious finisher in the 400m, Wariner confessed Thursday that found himself becoming exhausted and desperate for the finish line last season.

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“My first 200 (of a 400m race) was good, I was even running the (final) bend well but coming down the home straight I was tired, and this year we have been working on that, with (emphasis on) strength endurance and speed endurance,” he said.

“We are just trying to get my strength back up.”

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