Just four days after winning a bronze medal in the 110-meter hurdles at the 2015 IAAF World Championships, Olympic champion and world record holder Aries Merritt successfully underwent a kidney transplant on Tuesday morning at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, his coach Andreas Behm tells SI.
Merritt, 30, and his sister LaToya Hubbard checked in for surgery at 5 a.m. before beginning the surgery at 7 a.m. Hubbard donated one of her kidneys to Merritt.
"Everything was routine," Behm said in a text message. "Doctors said it went well."
In 2013, Merritt went to the hospital and was told by doctors that his kidney function was less than 15% because he was dealing with a collapsing variant of focal segmental glomerulosclerosis. He was told that he would need a transplant in May, but he decided to continue competing through August's global championship in Beijing.
Former NBA star Alonzo Mourning also underwent a kidney transplant for FSGS in 2003, and returned to the court to play for the New Jersey Nets and Miami Heat until his retirement in Jan. 2009. Former MLS player Clyde Simms retired from professional soccer in 2014 due to FSGS
On Friday night, Merritt ran his fastest 110-meter hurdle race since setting the world record of 12.80 in 2012 to win a bronze medal while operating on less than 20% kidney function. Six hundredths of a second from his 13.02 result separated him from Russia's Sergey Shubenkov for gold.
“This feat that I pulled off today—this bronze medal—is going to shine brighter than my gold for sure because despite everything I was going through, I still was able to pull of a medal and a season's best of 13.04,” Merritt told LetsRun.com after the race. “I'm so happy I was able to perform and be mentally tough in these rounds. It's very hard to run rounds with my current state of health.”
Merritt expects to make a full recovery and attempt to make his second U.S. Olympic team before defending his Olympic gold medal in Rio de Janeiro.