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Liu Xiang's got jokes!

Tuesday, 6th September 2011 ~ Maggie ~ Link ~ Comments (0)

What a cute couple. Liu Xiang and Dayron Robles,
What a cute couple. Liu Xiang and Dayron Robles, "hand in hand."
The biggest surprise to come from last week's 110m hurdles event at IAAF World Championships wasn't the disqualification of the Olympic champion and world record holder, or the performance of upstart 19-year-old American Jason Richardson—it was the discovery that Liu Xiang might actually be sort of a funny guy.

If you follow Chinese sports, you already know how Liu's race went in Daegu, Korea. He crossed the finish line third, but was upgraded to second after Dayron Robles was disqualified for jostling Liu as the two cleared the last few hurdles. The DQ decision came after the Chinese delegation complained, and although Robles might have been on to something when he told the AP, "If I were from another country that had more power, that wouldn't have happened," it's pretty clear that Robles affected Liu's finish (video at Universal Sports).

On returning home to Beijing, Liu joked about the controversial race, saying: "Setting a new world record is one of my goals. And the current world record is held by the guy with whom I ran hand-in-hand."

Okay, so he's no Jackie Chan or even Yao Ming, but this is the funniest thing I can recall Liu ever saying. Between this and that misguided hairstyle he tried out last year, I'm sure the guy has more personality than we know:

Liu
Liu "Rockabilly" Xiang. This really happened.

Liu's comeback is one of few bright spots in athletics for China, which finished a quiet 7th in the medal standings with one gold and four overall medals.

The lone gold medalist was Li Yanfeng, women's discus champion.

Image: Sohu.com

Tags: athletics, Dayron Robles, IAAF, Liu Xiang

Injured Liu Xiang withdraws from Olympics

Monday, 18th August 2008 ~ Maggie ~ Link ~ Comments (0)

UPDATE: For some great links to coverage about the Chinese reaction to Liu Xiang's injury, check out this Shanghaiist post.

For Chinese fans, they were, without a doubt, the three most anticipated events of the 2008 Olympics: the opening ceremony, Yao Ming and the men's basketball team's showdown with Team USA, and Liu Xiang's (刘翔) defense of his Olympic gold in the 110-meter hurdles.

Now the third one won't happen, as Liu—world record holder until a couple of months ago—withdrew from his preliminary heat this morning in the Bird's Nest. Liu showed up to the race, but he looked far from ready, grimacing and hobbling through warm-ups. He took his mark with the other competitors on the track. But after another runner false started, the injured hurdler tore off his numbers and turned to walk away from the race.
Liu Xiang crawling on the track during warmups
Liu Xiang crawling on the track during warmups

It was known that Liu spent the summer battling a bum hamstring. His coach, Sun Haiping, said in a news conference today that Liu also had a several years-old injury in to his achilles tendon that became more serious recently. Unable to hold back tears, Sun spoke of Liu's dedication to the sport and the pain he had struggled with in recent weeks. Asked whether Liu had known before today's event that he would not compete, the coach gave a rambling reply that ultimately didn't address the question. Sun had said three weeks ago that Liu was still not perfectly healthy but had run a strong 13.18.

The last time Liu raced was in late May at the Good Luck Beijing Athletics Open. He breezed to victory in an Olympic test event in the Bird's Nest. On June 2, Liu dropped out of the Reebok Grand Prix in New York, citing a tight hamstring. The following week, he was disqualified from the Prefontaine Classic in Oregon for a double false start.

The importance of Liu to these Olympics, Chinese sports in general and many Chinese people on a personal level cannot be overstated. He was the first Chinese male to win track and field gold. His face is ubiquitous on billboards and magazine covers from Beijing to Chengdu, and he is the country's top-earning athlete after Yao Ming.

Newspaper columnist Raymond Zhou of China Daily had compared Liu's run at gold to Barack Obama's run for the U.S. presidency. Zhou told China Sports Today before the games began, "We Chinese often convince ourselves that Chinese, and Asians in general, are not good at track and field. If Liu Xiang can consistently break that stereotype, it gives people hope that Asians can compete."

The pressure Liu was under was tremendous, and it can be seen in the reactions shown on TV today. Sun wasn't the only person shedding tears. CCTV showed shots of many in the crowd at the stadium who were visibly moved by Liu's collapse, and the state television station's commentators seemed to be barely containing their emotion when delivering the news.

The USA's Terrence Trammell was also sidelined by injury, leaving his fellow American David Oliver as the top challenger to the world record holder, Cuba's Dayron Robles.

Related:
Liu Xiang's record broken
Liu Xiang grounded again
Liu Xiang drops out of NY race

Image: hc360.com

Tags: athletics, Beijing Olympics, Bird's Nest, Dayron Robles, Liu Xiang, Olympics, track and field

Robles ties Liu's former world record

Saturday, 19th July 2008 ~ Maggie ~ Link ~ Comments (0)

If you live in China, you can be forgiven for believing that Liu Xiang (刘翔) is assured to win the gold medal in the 110-meter hurdles at the Beijing Olympics. But Liu, whose name used to appear next to the words "world record holder" and "odds-on" favorite, is far from invincible. Cuba's Dayron Robles broke his record last month, running the race in 12.87 seconds in Ostrava, Czech Republic. And yesterday, Robles silenced any doubt that he is the real deal, clocking a 12.88 in an IAAF race in Paris. Americans Terrence Trammell and Antwon Hicks ran 13.19 and 13.27, respectively.



Chinese friends of mine, often prone to excessive humility when it comes to their nation's athletes, are still completely bullish on Liu. He will win, they say, because Robles and the others are scared of him. But it's hard to see why the current world record holder should be afraid of Liu, whose fastest time this year is a 13.18 (at the Good Luck Beijing Athletics China Open in May) and who skipped his next race due to a hamstring injury and double faulted at the one after that. No doubt he knows Liu is a great athlete and competitor, but you don't break the world record and then show up to the Olympics shaking in your spikes.

Liu says his hamstring is still not totally healthy, but the 25-year-old is playing the age card on Robles, according to Reuters: "I feel like he is born to be a hurdler," Liu said of his 21-year-old rival. "He is terrific. But I still believe I am able to beat him. After all, he is younger than me."

On the evening of Thursday, August 21, at National Stadium in Beijing, we'll get to find out if Liu is right.

Related:
Liu Xiang drops out of NY race
Liu Xiang's record broken
Liu Xiang grounded again

Tags: athletics, Dayron Robles, Liu Xiang, track and field

Liu Xiang's Record Broken

Friday, 13th June 2008 ~ Maggie ~ Link ~ Comments (1)

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Ostrava, Czech Republic—The 110-meter hurdles race in the Olympics this August just got a lot more interesting, as Cuba's Dayron Robles took the "world record holder" prefix off of the name of one of China's favorite athletes.

Robles ran a 12.87, .01 seconds faster than Liu's best time, at the Golden Spike meet. Liu became one of the most famous people in China when he set the world record in 2004 and has dominated the event ever since. But he's had a shaky time of late, withdrawing from the Reebok Grand Prix with a tight hamstring and then getting disqualified for a false start at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon.

Image: AP

Tags: athletics, Dayron Robles, Liu Xiang, track and field