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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

Tiger Woods, Liu Xiang together in Beijing

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

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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)

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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.

Related:
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

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)

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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

China's lone medal at Adidas Track Classic

Tuesday, 19th May 2009 ~ Maggie ~ Link ~ Comments (0)

The Adidas Track Classic took place over the weekend in Carson, California and just for the heck of it, I decided to check out the results and see if any athletes from track-and-field-challenged China popped up. The event is pretty heavy on U.S. athletes, and light on international participation. The only Chinese athlete who came in top 10 in anything was Gao Shuying, who came in 12th in the eventATW072101in the Beijing Olympics, andhttp://www.adidastrackclassic.com/events-results/womens-pole-vault/. But Gao's best vault in California, 4.42 meters, isn't good enough to make her a contender and at 30, she'll be too old for London in 2012. So China's quest for Olympic medalists in track and field continues.

Tags: athletics, Gao Shuying, track and field

Chinese sports biz news: Xinhua, AEG, Isinbayeva

Friday, 6th March 2009 ~ Maggie ~ Link ~ Comments (0)

While the world economy reels, it looks like the business of Chinese sports is one area that's moving full-steam ahead. True, the Bird's Nest sits empty without a regular tenant or a decent lineup of future events, but there's plenty of other wheeling and dealing going on. The realization of the money-making potential of sports in China is relatively new among both domestic and international businesses, and there seems to be a bit of a scramble to gain an early foothold in this developing market. Here are some of the most recent stories in China's sports business world:

Isinbayeva signs Li-Ning deal

Two-time Olympic gold medal winner and world record-holding pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva signed a multi-million dollar deal with Li-Ning, China's biggest sports apparel maker. Contrary to the seemingly widely held impression that Chinese fans only cared about hometown athletes during the Beijing Olympics, locals actually jumped right on the bandwagon with the biggest stars of the games. Isinbayeva was definitely one of them. Her agent says the deal is not only about Li-Ning, but about opening the door to deals with other Chinese companies. She joins swimmer Michael Phelps (Mazda China) and tennis player Yelena Jankovic (Anta sportswear) in signing big sponsorship deals for the Chinese market this year.

Xinhua Finance rebrands itself Xinhua Sports & Entertainment

Xinhua Finance rebranded itself as Xinhua Sports and Entertainment, effective March 2, a strong signal of the coming growth of the business of sports in China (Brand Republic). Despite its former name, Xinhua Finance is not new to the world of sports. It holds exclusive rights to the All Sports Network, giving it access to an array of big American sports brands: the NFL, NCAA March Madness, Big 10 college sports and the NHL. It also purchased the distribution of the UEFA Europa League's 2009 to 2012 seasons. Its Nasdaq trading code will change from XFML to XSEL.

AEG China names new CEO

AEG China recently named John Cappo its CEO (Ticket News). Cappo was formerly managing director of ImG China. Cappo's biggest responsibilities for now will be management of three new facilities: Wukesong Basketball Arena in Beijing; the 18,000-seat Shanghai World Expo Performing Arts Center, set to open in may of 2010; and a new sports arena in Guangzhou, being built for the 2010 Asian Games. AEG created a joint venture with NBA China last fall, which will build, market and manage 10 to 12 arenas in Greater China, to be built by over the next 11 years.

New track and field series to include China stop

The IAAF—the international organization for track and field (or athletics)—has announced a new series of one-day meets, the IAAF Diamond League, that it hopes will rejuvenate interest in the sport globally. Among the 12 events scheduled for its inaugural year in 2010, will be the China Golden Grand Prix in Shanghai (more from Reuters UK).

Tags: AEG, athletics, China Golden Grand Prix, Isinbayeva, NBA China, Shanghai Golden Grand Prix, sports marketing, track and field, Wukesong, Xinhua Sports and Entertainment

Liu Xiang's done, just can't say it yet

Friday, 27th February 2009 ~ Maggie ~ Link ~ Comments (1)

First we heard that hurdler Liu Xiang (刘翔) would not likely recover from injury in time for world championships in August, setting instead a target of returning for the Shanghai Grand Prix in September. Now, Team Liu seems to be prepping fans for the possibility that the one-time world record holder and former Olympic champion—whose failure to compete was China's biggest disappointment last August—might soon hang up his spikes for good.

"If I get injured again, I will say goodbye to the sport," Liu said to state newspaper China Daily. "I'm even considering what to in the worst-case scenario (of getting injured again) so I don't feel too much pressure."

Why does an athlete start talking about his possible retirement more than six months ahead of his next scheduled competition? Because he knows he will never return to form, he's planning to retire this year, and he's trying to manage the unrealistic expectations of 1.3 billion people.

For our money, Liu will announce his retirement some time this year, in what is sure to be one of the biggest sports stories in China in 2009 (though it will barely be a blip on the international sports radar).

Who will take up where Liu leaves off in the track and field event that China watches most closely? The People's Daily says that Shi Dongpeng, China's number two in the event with a personal best of 13.19 seconds, doesn't have what it takes. And at 25, he is a little old to groom for the 2012 Olympics. Instead, the People's Daily says eyes are on 21-year-old Yin Jing and 19-year-old Xie Wenjun.

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

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