The Bird’s Nest was silent in the summer of 2008 as local hero Liu Xiang hobbled out of the stadium after pulling up in one of the heats in the 110 meter hurdles.
Along with basketball’s Yi Ming, Liu was the darling of the people, the first Chinese male athlete to win a track gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Few doubted that he would repeat the feat in front of his adoring fans four years later. Yet it all ended in tears for the Shanghai native, known around the country as the “Flying Man.” He later needed surgery on what turned out to be an Achilles tendon problem.
But it could be different in London. Indeed, if last weekend is anything to go by, there’s a very good chance as he looks in tip-top shape.
In Oregon on Saturday, he equaled the world record with a time of 12.87. No man has ever hurdled faster than that, and only Dayron Robles from Cuba has matched it.
Unfortunately for Liu, it didn’t count as it was wind assisted. The 2.4 meters per second win was just slightly over the allowable amount. So Robles keeps his record. But for Liu gave the impression that he didn’t really care too much about the time, it was all about getting gold this summer. At least, that was the impression that he tried to give as he talked to journalists keen to ask about his time and his chances of gold in England.
“I’m already the (2004) Olympic champion in Athens,” he said. “So I never think about that. It’s just a race for me.”
“I think my start was good,” he said, “but I think I made some mistakes from the third to the sixth hurdles. Maybe the wind pushed me.”
Liu held the record for two years before it was broken by his Cuban rival. Robles was due to be in Oregon but had to cancel due to visa problems.
He has much to think about as he prepares to head to New York on Saturday to pick up the gauntlet that has been thrown down by his Asian rival. And he may want to rethink his words of two weeks ago when asked about his chances this summer.
“The strongest opponent I have in London is myself. It’s the reality,” Robles said according to AP. “If I can beat myself then I will beat any rival…I don't know or care if (Liu) or whoever will be at the competition. If he’s there, perfect. If not, it doesn't matter to me.”