One of the world’s top sprinters, Aries Merritt, made his return to the track on Saturday, eight months after having a kidney transplant. The fastest man ever in the men’s 110m hurdles underwent the scheduled procedure following this past summer’s world championships in athletics.

Merritt’s return to the sport came at the Drake Relays, hosted by Drake University, in Des Moines, Iowa.

The reigning Olympic champion in the event, which involves athletes hurdling over 10 barriers, was diagnosed with kidney disease in 2013 following a sub-par year which prompted him to seek medical attention. According to the IAAF, Merritt was in the hospital from October 2013 to April 2014 and had troubling walking. Everyday tasks proved to be challenges and his kidney function had declined to 15 per cent.

According to the Mayo Clinic, kidneys “filter wastes and excess fluids from your blood, which are then excreted in your urine.”

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The disease stemmed from a genetic disorder. He didn’t reveal his kidney problem until 2015 after two years of track enthusiasts speculating why Merritt was not performing like he had during his magical year in 2012.

After being treated, the 30-year-old was again able to compete in the summer of 2014, just months after leaving the hospital. He won a bronze medal at the world championships in 2015 and had a successful kidney transplant on Sept. 1. Merrit’s sister, Latoya, donated her kidney and at the time, his kidneys were functioning at approximately 20 per cent.

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Saturday’s performance was his first since the transplant as he has spent the intermediate period recovering and getting back to full strength. Merritt finished fifth in the men’s 110m hurdles in 13.61. His world record is 12.80.

Merritt will continue to train and attempt to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team travelling to Rio this summer.

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