Liu Xiang's Olympics Come To An End

August 7, 2012
London, England

Liu Xiang's Olympic career and possibly hurdling career presumably came to an end in round one of the hurdles at the London Olympics. Running in the final heat of round one of the hurdles of London, Liu smashed the first hurdle with his left leg. He then lay on the ground holding his right leg near the Achilles. An Achilles injury to his right leg is what sidelined him in the 2008 Olympics.

Liu then got up hopped off on one leg, his left, and went underneath the stadium by the start. Then, in a touching display, Liu turned around and hopped back out into the stadium. He then hopped on his left leg all the way down the straightaway next to the hurdles. He got to the last set of hurdles and went back onto the track, to his lane four, bent over, and kissed his hurdle (photo here). Liu seemed to be saying goodbye to the Olympics and possibly to hurdling. Fellow competitors then helped him off the track.

Liu, the 2004 Olympic champion and former world record holder, had to withdraw from the 2008 Beijing Olympics with an Achilles injury. He had come back well from that injury to be a gold medal threat here. In his last race before the Olympics as Crystal Palace in London, Liu had run the first round of the hurdles, but not the final, so there was some concern on his fitness.

Here the problem appeared to be with his takeoff into the first hurdle, where he likely reinjured his right Achilles, could not get enough lift, and smashed into the hurdle. Chinese team leader Feng Shuyong said, "I think the problem happened on taking off."

Feng said he was proud of Liu for coming back from injury: "I feel really sorry about this, but I also feel very proud of him. After last time (Beijing 2008 where Liu was unable to run due to injury) he worked really, really hard in practice to maintain the same level and he did it and we are really proud of him."

Feng added that the Chinese coaches were trying to get Liu ready for the rounds. He said, "Since the schedule of the Olympic Games for 110m hurdles is like this, the first round is this morning and tomorrow there will be the semifinal and final within two hours. For an athlete like Liu Xiang, if he would like to do really well at these Olympic Games, he needs to do something in training simulating this arrangement, so just by doing this I thought the problem would not happen."

He expressed the sentiment many are thinking, that Liu's effort represents the Olympic ideal, saying "We think that it is truly the Olympic sprit, although winning is important. He was determined to get to the finish line and it showed the true spirit. We think that he shows the same spirit as the other Chinese athletes, shows that it is not just winning, but we are really involved in the Olympics and that we can show this Olympic spirit to the world."

Interesting tidbit: Liu by chance had the same number on his bib (1356) that he had in Beijing. The Chinese journalists were definitely interested in that.

Article updated since original flash report.

More Tuesday AM: Agony For Liu, All Smiles For Bolt As He Starts 200 Reuters
*NY Times On Liu

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