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Richardson leads star-studded hurdles field at Pre

By PAT GRAHAM,

AP Sports Writer

Updated June 1, 2012

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) Jason Richardson is a thrill seeker, vowing to one day swim with sharks, cliff dive and bungee jump.

The world champion 110-meter hurdler is a romantic as well, hoping to "slip and fall in love and not get back up," learn to speak fluent Italian and read at least 50 of the classics.

Also on the 26-year-old's lengthy bucket list: write his own novel, become a millionaire by 35 and stand on an Olympic podium, maybe even this summer.

And he won't have to wait for the London Games to see just how realistic this last item just may be.

Richardson will compete Saturday in the Prefontaine Classic, where a star-studded field awaits, including 2004 Olympic gold medalist Liu Xiang of China and American record holder David Oliver.

Cuban world-record holder and reigning Olympic champion Dayron Robles was scheduled to compete, but ran into visa issues and won't be in the field.

Up until last summer, Richardson was the hurdler that no one really knew. For that matter, he wasn't even the most well-known Jason Richardson, an honor easily belonging to the Orlando Magic shooting guard.

But this version of Jason Richardson is carving out his own identity after becoming a surprise world champion last August in South Korea.

Originally, he captured the silver, but was bumped up to gold when Robles was disqualified for smacking hands twice with Liu over the final few hurdles.

With that, Richardson was able to check an item off his wide-ranging bucket list.

So far, he's made more than 180 entries into a journal he stores on his computer. Constantly evolving and highly entertaining, the list represents a world of possibilities.

His yearnings range from artistic pursuits (learning to paint) to more comical endeavors (playing polo decked out from head to toe in Ralph Lauren Polo garb). Some adventures involve speed (driving on the autobahn), while others center around becoming more cultured (watching an opera).

There are also ambitious entries (climbing a mountain) and, of course, the very plausible - making the U.S. Olympic team for London.

Now that may be the most attainable one on his long list, which he concocted to ensure he enjoys each step of his journey.

"I've always said that I'd rather lose my wallet than my perspective," said Richardson, who runs with his long, braided hair tied back in a ponytail. "The bucket list is a really, really arrogant list, to be honest, of things that say, `I want to be (awesome) and here are the reasons why.'"

He acknowledges he borrowed the concept from the characters played by Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson in the 2007 movie "The Bucket List."

Only, they waited until late in life to dig into their desires.

"Do I really have to wait until I'm dying to do a lot of things that I want to do now?" Richardson said.

Richardson is off to a flying start on his list, already reading George Orwell's "1984," zip-lining through a forest in Tennessee and attending Fashion Week in New York. He's also started another undertaking on his list: viewing the American Film Institute's top 100 movies. He recently rented "Citizen Kane," and can understand why it's No. 1.

On the track, he's attempting to reach that top spot, too.

And yes, it's an actual entry.

A far from easy one, though.

Richardson happens to be competing in what could be considered the golden age of hurdles. Robles (12.87 seconds) and Liu (12.88) have the fastest times in history, while Oliver holds the American record (12.89) and Aries Merritt is coming off an indoor season in which he captured the 60-meter world title.

Now, they're all crowding into one competition on Saturday (with the exception of Robles).

Usually, a talented field such as this wouldn't assemble in, say, the 100 meters, with the Olympics so close. But the hurdles are more of a feel race and they need to compete to stay sharp.

That's why they frequently cross paths. Liu just beat Richardson and Oliver at a meet two weeks ago in Shanghai.

Richardson, Oliver, Merritt and Robles - provided he secures his visa - also will square off at the Adidas Grand Prix next weekend in New York.

"We don't mind lining up," Merritt said. "It always pushes us into best performance possible."

Although Richardson's win at worlds was the pinnacle of his career - for now, at least - he went back to the drawing board this offseason, changing his diet and tweaking his form.

All in an effort to get even faster. All in an attempt to keep up with Robles & Co.

Richardson hangs on every word uttered by coach John Smith, a track guru who also oversees the workouts of world champion sprinter Carmelita Jeter.

Together, Smith and Richardson are cleaning up his technique to increase his flat speed in between the hurdles.

"The different analogies that we come up with for practicing and hurdling have been hilarious," said Richardson, who won an NCAA crown in 2008 at South Carolina. "Everything I do, I do with a level of comedy and joviality."

Hence, his exhaustive bucket list.

Or, as his sister prefers him to call it, a possibilities list, since bucket list sounds so dark and macabre.

Other items on it include:

- Attend Wimbledon with his sister

- Fast for a month

- Learn to perform a back flip

- See the Seven of the Wonders of the World

"I'm having a blast," Richardson said. "I just don't want to look back and have medals and championships and records and say I didn't enjoy it."

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Reach out to AP Sports Writer Pat Graham on Twitter: http://twitter.com/pgraham34

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