Lightning struck twice in heartbreaking fashion for Chinese star hurdler Liu Xiang in London on Tuesday in some of the most moving scenes seen at the Olympics since Derek Redmond was helped around the track by his father in Barcelona in 1992.
Liu, the great local star of the 2008 Beijing Games and favorite to win the 110-meter hurdles, famously limped off the track after just two strides at the games held in his homeland to the massive disappointment of an entire nation.
The injury troubles and the Achilles tendon problems (his leg was strapped in London) have never really gone away for the hurdler..Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
Liu went a few steps further in London than he did in Beijing but not much. He crashed into the first hurdle and his Olympics were over.
"I feel really sorry about this situation,” said Feng Shuyong, the head coach of the Chinese team. “We think it was like four years ago. The same thing happened again. I feel really sad because he has worked very hard to get back to the level he was at before as champion.”
After the crash, Liu hopped the rest of the distance on his left foot to finish his race. He also stopped at the last hurdle and kissed it, earning a rousing ovation from the Olympic stadium crowd. He was then escorted off the track by his fellow Olympians.
Great Britain’s Andy Turner lent a helping hand and said: "I regard him as probably the best hurdler in history and have so much respect for him. It was horrible seeing him limp off like that, so you have to go and help people.
"He's a nice guy and I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy."
Reaction in China was disbelieving. On China’s Central Television, an emotional commentator Yang Jian said as Liu limped off. "He is ending the London Games in the cruelest way you can imagine," said Yang."Liu Xiang is a warrior."
Liu is a huge star in his homeland and there was massive anticipation at the thought of seeing him back in action in the Olympics but it was not meant to be.
If there is any consolation it is that at least Liu won the gold medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics but that prize eight years ago was probably not on his mind in London last night as he left the stadium in a wheelchair.