Gold medalist awarded key to the city

Published 9:19 pm Saturday, October 4, 2008

LaShawn Merritt wowed the world in August, when he swept two gold medals in the Beijing Olympics.

On Saturday, the Portsmouth native – who now calls North Suffolk home – wowed a small group of city children.

“Hard work pays off,” said Merritt, who was presented with a key to the city during a ceremony at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts before an audience of young athletes who play in the city’s recreation leagues. That ceremony came just minutes after he appeared the Peanut Fest parade as it wrapped through downtown Suffolk.

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Merritt led a 1-2-3 U.S. sweep in the 400 meter in Beijing. He returned to the awards stand a couple of days later after leading the 4x400m relay team, which won by nearly 3 seconds, to gold.

Merritt, during his couple of hours in Suffolk on Saturday, said he tries to encourage children to set goals and to be willing to fully invest themselves into achieving their dreams.

“You have to give 110 percent to everything you do in life,” he said. “I know the person beside me is giving it his 110 percent … and if I’m not, then I can only blame myself.

“…When you do that, anything can happen.”

Merritt encouraged the children to get a good education and to listen and respect their parents.