Star hurdler Liu Xiang has modest expectations heading into the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix on Sept 20, his comeback meet after 13 months on the sidelines with an ankle injury.
"As I didn't resume special training for hurdling for a long time and it is my first race in more than a year, I think it's going to be hard to finish with a good result," said the former Olympic and world champion. "I hope the people will understand that and I will try hard to regain my best form as soon as possible."
According to a statement from the Shanghai event's organizers on Saturday, Liu confirmed his participation at the annual event in his hometown, ending speculation on when he would return to the track.
His greatest rival in the Shanghai race will be American Terrence Trammell, a three-time World Championships silver medalist.
Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang runs over a hurdle at a training base in Shanghai, China, June 30, 2009. [Agencies]
Sports officials claim that no matter how fast Liu runs in the race, the real significance is that he is back.
"Liu's recovery has exceeded our expectations and his medical team, his coach and the administrative center are all looking forward to his return to competition," said Feng Shuyong, vice-director of China's Administrative Center. "His participation at the Shanghai event is a miracle, so I hope his fans won't have high expectations about the result. The return of an (injured) athlete requires a gradual process.
"For Liu, what matters the most is not to win or lose but to show he is ready to return."
A statement on the event's official website said the Shanghai meet will be his first post-injury competition but it will take some time for him to return to top form as he has just started to wear spikes.
The announcement came just a day after three-time world sprint champion Usain Bolt of Jamaica confirmed he was pulling out of the Shanghai event due to fatigue, which led to talk that Liu's participation was aimed at saving the box office of the event.
But organizers and Liu's coach denied such claims.
"Liu has been working for more than a year on his comeback and if his physical condition couldn't meet the requirements of the race, nobody would invite him to return," said an official of the organizing committee, according to the Shanghai Evening Post.
Liu's coach also called the race a necessary event for his charge to regain competitive form.
"Taking part in some competitions is an important part of Liu's systematic comeback program," said coach Sun Haiping. "The Shanghai event will help him to prepare for the Asian Athletics Championships in November and East Asia Games in December."
In testing conditions on Thursday, Liu ran 13.70 - well outside 12.88, which he ran to claim the then world record in 2006, but it was enough to convince him that he was ready to return.
Feng said: "It (the test run) was a practical exam of Liu's training and recovery which has made him more confident to return to the track."