Sports / Stars

Star hurdler weds girlfriend

By Sun Xiaochen (China Daily) Updated: 2014-09-10 05:03

Star hurdler weds girlfriend

Newlyweds Liu Xiang (right) and Ge Tian in this combination photo on the star hurdler's Tencent Weibo (top) and the bride's Sina Weibo.

Getting married suggests that star hurdler Liu Xiang is getting close to retirement, but his remaining popularity will help him transition into a decent post-athletic career, experts said.

Former Olympic champion hurdler Liu posted a photo of himself and a young woman leaning on a hurdle with a caption reading "My beloveds, her and it" on Tencent Weibo on Tuesday morning, sparking more than 22 million responses and views in a few hours.

Star hurdler weds girlfriend
Liu Xiang promotes Laureus World Sports in Shanghai 
Liu's mother, Ji Fenhua, confirmed that her son has recently registered for marriage with the woman in the photo, who was later found to be young actress Ge Tian.

According to Liu's parents, Liu met Ge for the first time at a friend's party in 2009, and their romance started to grow after the 2012 London Olympics when Liu recovered from a heel injury with care from Ge.

By Tuesday evening, more than 50,000 micro blog users participated in the discussion "Liu Xiang gets married" on Sina Weibo, and news about Ge's profile made headlines on major websites.

In China, athletes usually focus on personal matters after retiring from their hard-driving athletic careers, and the news of Liu's marriage indicates that the 31-year-old Shanghai native is about to retire, observers said.

"I think it's highly possible (that Liu would retire soon)," Zhang Qing, founder of Key-Sports consulting agency, told China Daily on Tuesday.

"Returning to his prime form is already impossible after so many years of recovering from serious injury."

Wu Wenqiang, an athletic-training professor at Beijing Sport University, said that "hurdling requires extreme strength and flexibility of muscles and joints, which are hard for Liu to regain at this age after injuries".

However, there will be more than enough choices for the 2004 Athens Olympics gold medalist to rediscover himself in the sports circle.

"China lacks sports stars with international influence. Liu's departure from the field will undoubtedly affect his stardom, but he will remain one of the most recognized sports faces in China," Zhang said.

"That will help him explore future career possibilities as a sports official, a track-and-field promoter or even in the sports industry."

Liu's commercial value in the sports market, which brought him lucrative endorsement deals from as many as 14 sponsors after the 2004 Olympics, will be expected to shrink a lot if he retires, Zhang said.

"Still, some of the major brands like Nike and Coca-Cola will need his impact to boost their business in China for a long period of time. His influence won't dim rapidly," he said.

Liu and his long-term coach Sun Haiping didn't comment on Liu's marriage or the possibility of his retirement.

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