Star hurdler Liu Xiang returned home last night after spending about three months in the United States for foot surgery and rehabilitation.
Chinese 110m hurdle star Liu Xiang arrives in Shanghai, east China, March 8, 2009. [Xinhua]
Liu and coach Sun Haiping were whisked away by officials after arriving at Shanghai Pudong airport at around 6:30 pm, and said nothing to the waiting media.
Liu went straight to the Xinzhuang training base in Shanghai, where he will start on the comeback trail through rehabilitation and training.
Feng Shuyong, vice-director of China's Athletics Administrative Center, said a group of experts is on standby at the training base to help with Liu's recovery.
"The experts will give Liu a full check-up tomorrow or the day after and advise regularly on rehabilitation in the coming months," Feng was quoted by qq.com as saying.
The foot injury forced defending champion Liu to withdraw from the 2008 Beijing Olympics last August after he limped out of the Bird's Nest in the first round of the men's 110m hurdles, bitterly disappointing adoring home fans.
The 25-year-old Athens Olympic and world champion had successful foot surgery in December at the Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center in Houston, and had four calcium deposits removed from his right Achilles tendon.
He spent the next three months in Houston for rehabilitation and basic training under the guidance of doctors there.
"His recovery is better than we expected. Doctors believe that after three months' rehabilitation and training, he has actually achieved the level of recovery that generally needs four months," Feng said.
Liu will, however, be absent from the ongoing annual Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) meeting due to the recovery process. Feng said Liu is paying close attention to the meeting through the Internet, and closely following issues such as athletes' education and life after retirement.
It is the second time Liu has asked for leave from the annual session after being elected to the CPPCC: He did not attend last year's meeting because he was at a key competition in Spain.