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Injured star hurdler wins award for his courage at the London Olympics
China's star hurdler, Liu Xiang, can walk without assistance and is expected to resume training in June, his coach, Sun Haiping, said.
"Liu's rehabilitation is going smoothly and his foot is getting better and better," Sun told China Daily on the sidelines of a Chinese Athletics Association ceremony on Friday night.
"Liu can walk without any assistance right now and the next step for his rehabilitation is to enhance the strength of his injured foot as his leg has suffered muscular atrophy since the surgery. Once his foot recovers, he can resume slow running and then normal training," Sun said.
The 29-year-old ruptured his right Achilles tendon when he hit the first hurdle in the first round of the men's 110m hurdles at the London Olympics. Liu underwent surgery in the city and received 13 stitches, which were removed at Shanghai Huashan Hospital on Aug 23. He went to the United States for further rehabilitation in October.
Although Liu's fall in London stunned the nation, his courage was rewarded with the Fighting Spirit award at the ceremony in Beijing. His prize was accepted by Sun.
"I feel thankful that Liu is recovering on schedule," Sun said. "According to the timetable given by his therapists, he is expected to resume normal training in June."
However, Sun declined to say if Liu would definitely return to competition.
"Taking on training again doesn't mean he can come back to competition," he said. "He can go back to competition only if he can undergo intensive training. He has had two major surgeries (in 2008 and 2012), so we have to be cautious about it.
"If he can't endure intensive training, then it's hard to say whether he can compete again or not. It all depends on his rehabilitation."
Still, Liu apparently wants to return to the track and his spirit has been hailed by a leading athletics official.
"Liu's injury at the London Games was regretful. He suffered a lot and battled injury since the 2008 Beijing Olympics," said Feng Shuyong, head coach of the Chinese athletics team and vice-director of the Chinese Athletics Administrative Center.
"That he could reach his peak again after the 2008 injury was magical. All of us expected him to do well at the London Games, but the nature of sports can be very cruel and unpredictable.
"I hope Liu can take it easy and heal. He is still willing to compete, so we will support him no matter if he is successful or not. What he has done has surpassed the significance of any gold medal. His fighting spirit is more important to China's track and field."
Despite Liu's fall, the Chinese track and field team collected one gold medal and five bronze at the London Olympics; its best result at the Olympic Games.
At the ceremony, London Olympic 20 km race walking gold medalist Chen Ding won Athlete of the Year while his mentor, Sun Li'an, was named Coach of the Year.
(China Daily 12/09/2012 page7)