Team China

Comeback kid Liu slays his demon

By Lei Lei (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-11-25 09:58
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Comeback kid Liu slays his demon
China's Liu Xiang (left) competes alongside Korea's Park Tae-kyong on his way to winning the men's 110m hurdles on Wednesday.[Photo/ China Daily]

GUANGZHOU - Buoyed by his third 110m hurdles gold medal at the Asian Games on Wednesday, Liu Xiang, who flashed to the finish line in 13.09 seconds, believes he can reprise his role as the Olympic champ in two years' time.

"I believe I can do it (win the Olympic gold medal again)," said Liu after he blazed home ahead of teammate Shi Dongpeng, who clocked 13.38.

Both hurdlers registered season bests but Liu, the former world and Olympic champion, was over 2/10 of a second slower than the Asian record of 12.88 he still holds.

Korea's Park Taek-yong took bronze.

"I know it's easy to say 'I can', even though the process might be difficult. But I believe I still have the power to do it. No matter if I can get the gold or not, I'll try my very best," said Liu, who surrendered his world record to Dayron Robles in June 2008 when the Cuban ran 12.87.

Since then Liu has lived with the knowledge that he is a mere 1/100 of a second shy of being hailed as the world's fastest hurdler.

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Liu rose to fame as China's first major track star when he won Olympic gold in Athens in 2004, but experienced a fall from grace four years later when limped out of the Bird's Nest in Beijing with an Achilles tendon injury before the preliminary heats of his signature event.

Since then he has been plagued with a right Achilles tendon problem that still bothers him despite having undergone surgery in the United States shortly after the 2008 Olympics.

Wednesday's win was his first major victory on home soil since that fateful day in Beijing that silenced a stadium and left his Chinese fans shell-shocked.

In March this year, Liu only managed a seventh-place finish at the world indoor championships in the shorter 60m hurdles.

Two months later he pocketed bronze at a Diamond League meet in Shanghai, his hometown, where he was beaten by Shi for the first time after clocking 13.40.

His impressive comeback in Guangzhou bodes well for his prospects at the worlds and Olympics, and reportedly led to the signing, or renewing, of multi-million dollar endorsement contracts.

Liu started well on Wednesday evening following a brief interruption to his warm-up routine in which he requested fans to quiet down, then visibly accelerated after the starting gun to leave the rest of the pack vying for second place.

"I didn't expect that I'd be able to finish in 13.09, as I was ready for a tough race today," he said.

"There's still a gap between my current form and how I was at my peak, but I have time to improve. I believe I can still run inside 13 seconds and I'm confident I can get back to my peak."

Shi vowed to continue chasing Liu down for the title of China's and Asia's No 1.

"There's still a big gap between me and him, but beating him is always my goal. I just have to work harder," Shi said.

Liu will now focus on preparing for the athletics world championships, which will be held in Daegu, Korea next year, then the 2012 London Olympics.

"I'm not afraid of any competition," he said. "I know exactly what my shortcomings are, and what my strengths are."



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