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 "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

Tiger Woods, Liu Xiang together in Beijing

Thursday, 14th April 2011 ~ Maggie ~ Link ~ Comments (0)

Nike fraternity brothers Tiger Woods and Liu Xiang were in Beijing yesterday to "inspire youth", or more accurately promote Nike golf at Beijing Sports University. They make an interesting pair—Liu Xiang shattered stereotypes about Chinese and Asian track and field athletes, and Woods broke new ground for Cablinasians in golf. Both reached the pinnacle of their sports before suffering very public and sudden, if quite different, falls. And both are in the hunt for a comeback that will restore some of the shine to their images.

The Beijing visit was part of an Asia tour for Woods and Nike Golf, "Make it Matter," which included a stop at Shenzhen's Mission Hills and South Korea's Jade Palace Golf Club.

Woods was fresh off a third-place tie at The Masters last weekend, and Vegas oddsmakers have him the as favorite to win the US Open in June.

Liu Xiang's most recent accomplishment was his 13.09-second Asian games gold medal. Next month in Shanghai, he faces American David Oliver, who ran the fastest 100-meter hurdles time in the world last year, May 15 at the Samsung Diamond League Dunlop Shanghai Golden Grand Prix.

Tiger Woods/Liu Xiang image: Xinhua

Tags: athletics, golf, Liu Xiang, Tiger Woods

Liu Xiang 7th at World Indoors

Monday, 15th March 2010 ~ Maggie ~ Link ~ Comments (0)

Liu Xiang (刘翔) and his coach Sun Haiping are putting a positive spin on the once world champion hurdler's seventh-place performance at World Indoor Championships in Doha, Qatar, over the weekend. Liu clocked a time of 7.65 seconds in the 60-meter hurdles, in his first major international competition since he limped off the track at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Liu had set a goal of making the finals at Doha, which he accomplished, and Sun said the competition had not done any further damage to his runner's surgically repaired Achilles tendon.

Liu now has about a year and a half to prepare for the next IAAF World Championships in Athletics, scheduled to begin August 27, 2011 in Daegu, Korea. Before that, he will no doubt be expected to bring home a gold medal for China at the Asian Games in Guangzhou this coming November.

Video report from CCTV
Robles edges Trammell for 60 hurdles title (Reuters)

Liu Xiang image: cfj88.cn

Tags: 110 meter hurdles, athletics, Liu Xiang, track and field

Around the Web: Leader calls Chinese kids unfit, Liu Xiang stumbles, underage gymnasts

Monday, 8th March 2010 ~ Maggie ~ Link ~ Comments (0)

Sports leader: Chinese kids need to shape up

Chinese children need to get in better shape, with nothing less than national security at stake. So said Beijing Sports University president Yang Huan, addressing the annual all-government meeting, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Congress, which recently got underway in Beijng. In an effort to funnel more funds to youth sports and fitness, Yang raised concern that China's young people lag behind other nations'. He pointed out one rival in particular: "If there was another war against Japan, would the younger Chinese be able to fight the Japanese one-on-one?" (Reuters: Chinese youth accused of not being fit

Liu Xiang a star attraction at political meet, not so hot at track meet

Several athletes serve on the CPPCC, which lasts about another week. Among them is hurdler Liu Xiang. Liu missed last year's meeting because he was in the United States rehabilitating from foot surgery. After a promising return to action last fall, where he lost in a photo finish at the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix, Liu's comeback seems to be stumbling a bit. He came in fourth at a recent 60-meter hurdle race in Shanghai against all Chinese runners. The former world record holder insists that he just slowed down at the end to protect his foot for the upcoming world championships in Doha, Qatar, starting March 12. But this quote from a China Daily story doesn't sound promising: "If I want to push myself, I can surely do it, but it makes me feel uncomfortable in the foot."

The world will soon find out just what condition he is in, as he joins his first major international competition since pulling out of the Olympics due to injury. Also going to Qatar are the USA's Terrence Trammell and Dayron Robles of Cuba, the current world record holder and the man Liu has said he expects to win in Doha.

To see the awkward, disappointing way in which local media cover Liu at the CPPCC, cue this China Daily video

Chinese gymnast age fraud: Throwback edition

Age fraud hit China's gymnastics program again last week, but this time it focused on Dong Fangxiao, who won a bronze medal in the team event at the Sydney Games in 2000. The International Gymnastics Federation has recommended that the International Olympic Committee take back her medal (Reuters, saying they believe she was not 16 years old at the time. The Chinese Gymnastics Association said it intends to appeal, and that there is "insufficient evidence that Dong Fangxiao has age problems when participating in competition in 1999 and 2000."

Tags: 110m hurdles, Dong Fangxiao, gymnastics, Liu Xiang

Looking back: China's top 10 sports stories in 2009

Monday, 21st December 2009 ~ Maggie ~ Link ~ Comments (0)

The Bird's Nest is just one of a growing number of white elephants in China. Jinan's Olympic Stadium, above, was built for this year's National Games.
The Bird's Nest is just one of a growing number of white elephants in China. Jinan's Olympic Stadium, above, was built for this year's National Games.
Back in January, we speculated about what sports headlines would make the biggest impact this year. While many of the things we predicted came to pass (Beijing Guo'an won the national soccer championship, Liu Xiang's return was watched by millions), China's sports world had plenty of surprises in 2009. Here are the 10 we think mattered the most:

1. Chinese soccer league match fixing
Bribery, match fixing, betting—the Chinese Soccer League has long been tainted with some of sport's worst scourges. In November, police arrested 16 players, coaches and officials in an attempt to clean up the league. But observers say that a lot more still needs to be done.

2.Chinese swimming makes a splash in Rome

When Zhang Lin became China's first male swimming world champ in Rome this summer--winning the 800-meter freestyle in world record time--media quickly crowned him the Liu Xiang of the pool. But unlike Liu, Zhang had some backup from his teammates, as China put in its best ever performance at the world meet. With 4 golds and 10 medals, China was behind only the United States and Germany. Though Zhang Lin dominated the headlines, it was the women—led by Liu Zige and Zhao Jing--who were responsible for China's breakout. Female swimmers accounted for all but two of China's medals, and three of the four golds.

3. Diving judging scandal

China's national games diving competition was shaken up when one judge quit late in the competition, and then leveled accusations that results were fixed and that Zhou Jihong, head of the Chinese diving federation, calls all the shots.

4. Sports official spills secrets

Former national volleyball coach and long-time senior sports administration leader Yuan Weimin published his memoir, "Yuan Weimin: Storms of the Chinese Sports World" in October. Among the stories in Yuan's memoir that are making sports officials squirm is the tale of a shady vote-trading arrangement that put Belgium's Jacques Rogge at the head of the International Olympic Committee and brought the 2008 games to Beijing.

4. Empty Nest

The Beijing Olympics' iconic building, Beijing National Stadium--aka the Bird's Nest, aka a $400 million project that takes $70 million to maintain annually, aka a venue that required the relocation of thousands of families—has hosted only four events since the games ended 16 months ago (including an opera and a martial arts show that couldn't have possibly turned a profit). The situation is so bad that in the fall, the state took back operating control of the venue from its private owners.

5. Liu Xiang's return

A grimacing Liu Xiang limping around the Bird's Nest track was one of the most potent images of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. The former Olympic and world record holder in the 110-meter hurdles, an athlete who rivals Yao Ming in prominence in China, was unable to run because of an injury to his Achilles tendon. More than a year later, he put doubts to rest about whether his career was finished, returning to competition in the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix, where he finished second in a 13.15-second photo finish.

6. China win's women's curling worlds

Curling? On a top 10 list? Stick with me here… When China's women's curling team won world championships last year, skipper Wang Bingyu and her teammates became instant media stars on the mainland. The current team is China's first generation of curlers, and if Canada doesn't figure out how to beat them at the 2010 Winter Olympics, curling will become only the second team sport in which China has won an Olympic gold medal (women's volleyball being the other, in 1984 and 2004).

7. Dealmaker Kenny Huang

Last May, news broke that a Chinese investor was nearing a deal to purchase a 15 percent stake in the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA franchise. That investor was Huang Jianhua, or Kenny Huang, who subsequently made a deal to promote youth baseball with the Chinese Baseball Association and to purchase a team in the Chinese Basketball Association. Last week, reports indicated that the Cavs purchase might go through before the end of the year. The lead on the deal is now Albert Hung, but Huang's still very much involved and seems to have dreams of a Chinese sports empire--keep an eye on this guy.

9. HSBC Champions

Shanghai's HSBC Champions golf tournament was elevated this year to World Golf Championship status, with $7 million in prize money. Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els finished first and second, and China got its last look at a squeaky clean Tiger Woods, who finished sixth. In his reporting on the event for ESPN, Shanghaiist editor Dan Washburn wrote that the event was well timed, as the inclusion of golf in the Olympics could provide a boost to the sport's popularity and official support here. HSBC Champions returns to Shanghai next year, which means it will take place alongside the Shanghai World Expo.

10. China disappears from the NBA

While Huang buys his way into the NBA, Chinese players are limping out. Yao Ming is missing the current season with a foot fracture, and the Nets' Yi Jianlian played just four games before sitting out at least the next 24 with injuries. The next great hope, Sun Yue, was dropped by the Lakers, then picked up and dropped by the New York Knicks. The NBA could really use another once-in-a-lifetime athlete like Yao right about now.

Zhang Lin, China's first male swimming champ

China Daily: Enthusiasm fades for Bird's Nest

LA Times on Yuan Weimin

ESPN.go.com: Olympics makes China major player in golf

Tags: Bird's Nest, curling, Dan Washburn, football, HSBC Champions, Huang Jianhua, Kenny Huang, Liu Xiang, Liu Zige, NBA, soccer, Sun Yue, Yi Jianlian, Yuan Weimin, Zhang Lin

China's 60th: Where was Yao?

Friday, 2nd October 2009 ~ Maggie ~ Link ~ Comments (0)

Liu Xiang (L) and Li Ning (R)
Liu Xiang (L) and Li Ning (R)
In case you missed it (and only those of you not in China could have), yesterday the Chinese Communist Party celebrated its 60th anniversary with a military parade down Changan Avenue, past Tiananmen Square in Beijing. After troops and weapons were ceremoniously reviewed by Hu Jintao and the party leaders, dozens of floats went by representing China's various provinces and sectors of the economy or culture.

When the sports float paraded past, China's biggest sports star was conspicuously missing. Waving bouquets of yellow and red flowers atop a replica of Beijing's Olympic cauldron were Liu Xiang (China's first gold medalist in track and field), Li Ning (gymnast and triple gold medalist in the 1984 Olympics) and Xu Haifeng (pistol shooter and China's first ever gold medalist). Several other athletes—gymnasts, divers, cyclists, basketball player Wang Zhizhi—also joined in the show. But where was China's one true international sports star, Yao Ming?

The Houston Rockets center is rehabbing a foot fracture and will sit out the 2009-2010 NBA season. He skipped the team's media day, but was spotted on crutches at the Toyota Center. He went under the knife in July, to repair an injury that got the best of him during the playoffs last spring.
It's entirely possible that Yao's doctors advised against him making the trip. Sure, he could be propped up on a parade float for an hour, but he'd also probably have to make a dozen other appearances at state dinners and galas during Golden Week. And if Yao can't stand on his own two feet for more than a few minutes right now, then forget about the parade. China's most recognized face worldwide, sitting in an easy chair on the big day? Not exactly the look the country was going for on a day that tanks rolled past the Forbidden City and jet fighters flew overhead.

But here's another possible reason that's interesting to think about: The big man was getting out of everyone's way. Yao Ming was getting out of the way of Liu Xiang, the 110-meter hurdler who shattered Chinese stereotypes with his Olympic gold medal in 2004, and just launched a legit comeback from last year's very public and painful downfall. Yao Ming was getting out of the way of Li Ning, China's "prince of gymnastics" and the CEO of the leading Chinese sportswear brand (named, what else, Li Ning), which is scrambling to compete with Nike and Adidas for its share of the growing domestic sports apparel market. Yao Ming was getting out of the way of Hu Jintao, Jiang Zemin and the rest of the Communist Party leadership, who were lauded yesterday for overseeing China's recent economic rise. Yao—one of the most famous people in the world, who would certainly have appeared in most Western media reports of the parade—was getting out of the way of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, the late leaders whose legacies were unquestioningly celebrated, at least in official events and reports.

Yes, it's possible that Yao was getting out of the way in Beijing, just as he got out of the way in Houston last week, when the guys who will actually play for Houston this year answered the questions and mugged for the cameras. But then again, it's possible he really can't let go of those crutches yet and appearing on national TV all banged up is just as bad for Brand Yao as for Brand China.

Liu Xiang, Li Ning parade image: Sports.scol.com.cn

Tags: Houston Rockets, Li Ning, Liu Xiang, NBA, sports marketing, Xu Haifeng, Yao Ming

Back on track: Liu Xiang in photo finish in Shanghai

Monday, 21st September 2009 ~ Maggie ~ Link ~ Comments (0)

What person in China woke up this morning with a bigger sense of relief than Liu Xiang (刘翔)? Last night his second place photo finish, in 13.15 seconds, finally put to rest questions of whether the 110-meter hurdler could return to world class form after foot surgery. While the winner, the USA's Terrence Trammell, took a cool victory lap, it was Liu who made the kind of dramatic gesture you might expect from a world championship performance, not a second-place finish at a relatively minor international race. He flopped to the track in his hometown with a huge grin on his face.

"I had not expected to run so fast," Liu said, according to this report from Xinhua. "It's just beyond my imagination."

When he became the first Asian man to win Olympic track and field gold in 2004, Liu shattered a big stereotype and gave Chinese athletes and fans a new sense of pride and hope. In the run-up to the Olympics last year, Liu's gold medal defense was the most anticipated event for the host country. So when he limped and winced his way out of the Bird's Nest at last year's preliminaries, it was a low point for China in an otherwise very successful Olympic campaign.

Just over a year after the games and about 10 months after undergoing successful surgery in Houston for an Achilles tendon injury, Liu took to the starting blocks yesterday at the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix. It was the first time that the man who once held the sport's "Triple Crown" (world champion, Olympic champion, world record holder), had laced up his spikes since May of 2008 in a Beijing test event.

Liu, who some people (ahem--me) speculated was finished as an elite competitor and would retire this year, is back, and is certainly headed to a billboard and magazine cover near you (if you live in China, that is). Two of his sponsors, Nike and Amway, bought out half-page front page ads on Chinese newspapers to accompany news of the victory today. Those advertisers are probably nearly as relieved as Liu, who they helped make into China's second highest paid athlete after Yao Ming.

Notably absent from Sunday's race, however, were the current Olympic champion and world record holder (Dayron Robles, Cuba) and the current world champion (Ryan Brathwaite, Barbados). Brathwaite won in Berlin with a time of 13.14 and Robles broke Liu's record last summer, clocking a 12.87. So while Liu proved yesterday that he can run with some of the world's best, he still has work to do if he wants to challenge for gold at the next world or Olympic championships.

Tags: 110-meter hurdles, athletics, Liu Xiang, track and field

Good News, Bad News in Chinese Sports World

Tuesday, 15th September 2009 ~ Maggie ~ Link ~ Comments (0)

Bad news in volleyball: China loses Asian Championship

When China loses to tiny countries in most team sports, it comes as no surprise. But women's volleyball is supposed to be the exception, the team sport that brought China its first team sport gold medal in 1984 and produced one of its most successful sports exports, Jenny Lang Ping, until recently head coach of the U.S. women's team. That history just adds to the sting of China's 3-1 loss to Thailand at the Asian championships over the weekend. Thailand was seeded third in the tournament, so they didn't exactly come out of nowhere, but they have never won an Asian championship before and didn't even qualify for the 2008 Olympics, where China won bronze against a tough field. Xinhua called the final "thrilling,", but Thailand won each of the last two sets by a margin of 25-19.

Image: English.cri.cn

Good news in track and field: Liu Xiang's return

Liu Xiang will compete at next week's Shanghai Golden Grand Prix (September 20), lacing up his racing shoes for the first time since he limped and winced his way out of competition at last year's summer Olympics. Liu, one-time world record holder, world champion and Olympic champion in the 110-meter hurdles, is the only Chinese man to ever win Olympic gold in a track event and by far the country's most visible athlete product endorser. Liu's camp is managing expectations, according to this report from the Wall Street Journal. Liu made his announcement after it became clear that the event's reigning Olympic champ and world record holder, Cuba's Dayron Robles, wouldn't be making the trip to Shanghai. Robles pulled out of World Championships in Berlin last month due to a hamstring injury. The new world champ is Ryan Brathwaite, a 21-year-old Barbadian who ran a 13.14 in Berlin. World runner-up, American Terrence Trammell, is also considered a threat to Liu.

Bad news in track and field: A Bolt-less Grand Prix in Shanghai

Usain Bolt, the hottest name in track and field, won't compete in Shanghai next week, and is also skipping an upcoming competition in South Korea. The Jamaican sprinter says he's suffering from fatigue—too many chicken nuggets? It's disappointing news for Chinese fans, and a little puzzling given that returning to China to compete should only help him sell more Puma shoes here.

Good news in basketball: Sun Yue gets a break

The New York Knicks have signed Chinese guard Sun Yue to a non-guaranteed contract, according to multiple media reports. Sun's had a rough NBA run, though we suspect it's been a smoothed a bit by the fact that he garners a little more attention in China for any team that gets involved with him. The Lakers drafted him in 2007, but he didn't get a contract until after the Beijing Olympics. He played in 10 games for the Los Angeles Lakers last year in his rookie season, averaging less than one point, and was relegated to the D-League in March.

Tags: athletics, basketball, Liu Xiang, Shanghai Golden Grand Prix, Sun Yue, track and field, Usain Bolt, volleyball


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