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Page last updated at 08:16 GMT, Monday, 18 August 2008 09:16 UK

China stunned by Liu injury blow

By Claire Stocks
BBC Sport in Beijing


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Video - Injury agony forces Liu pull-out

Defending 110m hurdles champion Liu Xiang is out of the Beijing Olympics after pulling up in the opening round.

Liu, considered China's best athletics gold medal hope, was clearly in pain with an Achilles injury in the warm-up.

And after a false start, he pulled up and stunned the home crowd in the 91,000-seater Bird's Nest stadium when he was forced to withdraw.

"Liu Xiang has two injuries, one in his foot and one in his leg," his coaches told a news conference.

Liu's withdrawal was greeted by disbelief from the capacity crowd, who left in their droves as their ashen-faced hero exited down the tunnel into the bowels of the iconic stadium.

Liu pulled after after the false start
Liu pulled after after the false start

And people around China have been shocked by the news - a Chinese TV presenter who broke the story on the Olympics TV channel's 1pm (0600 BST) bulletin broke down in tears on air.

Rumours had surfaced half an hour before his heat that he was struggling and Liu's frustration showed as he kicked a padded wall before entering the stadium.

Feng Shouyong, head of the Chinese team, said: "Since Athens, his main goal was to achieve gold in Beijing.

"Today's result was not perfect for all of us and especially Liu Xiang. He has been under great pressure and expectations from all of us."

OLYMPIC BLOG
Athletics pundit Steve Cram
BBC Sport in Beijing

BBC Sport presenter Colin Jackson, former 110m world-record holder, was watching the action in Beijing.

"Everyone in the stadium was shocked and horrified and we all felt an array of emotions for the young man because you could see how frustrated he was at being unable to go out there and deliver.

"Sometimes when I performed badly I did not want to go out into my town centre because I was embarrassed.

"Can you imagine how he feels? He is on so many posters, he is advertising everything here, and now the whole nation will not have the opportunity to see him defend his title.

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Video - Why does Liu's exit mean so much?

"This was going to be the event of the Olympic Games, the one the whole nation wanted to watch. Now it is going to be very flat."

Tickets for Thursday's evening athletics session, when the 25-year-old was supposed to be going head-to-head with Cuban world-record holder Dayron Robles in the 110m final, had been reportedly changing hands for up to US$5,000.

Robles now seems certain to claim the gold after another rival, American Terrence Trammell, also withdrew after pulling up injured.

BBC Radio 5 Live's athletics correspondent Mike Costello said Liu's coach Sun Haiping was sobbing and could hardly finish his sentences as he tried to explain the withdrawal at a packed media conference.

Liu's coach Sun Haiping (r)is devastated
Liu's coach Sun Haiping (r) is devastated

Liu, who won China's first ever track and field gold when he took the 110m hurdles in Athens, had been struggling with a hamstring injury earlier in the year which had led him to withdraw from a Grand Prix in New York.

But had recovered from that, said his coach, only for a long-standing injury to his Achilles tendon on his right foot (his take off foot) to flare up on Saturday.

"It's not clear exactly when it began but it is six or seven years old. It was there before the 2004 Athens Games and it has been coming and going," said Sun.

"I'm afraid he won't be able to compete before the end of the year ... he can barely walk. He was in tears, he's very depressed.

"He has been fighting and fighting until the last moment."

Feng said the injury had worsened on Monday morning.

"This morning he felt the pain intensify," he said. "Even though he felt the pain he decided to compete in the first heat.

"Liu would not withdraw unless the pain was intolerable and there was no other way out."

Sun said Liu, who he discovered 12 years ago and has coached ever since, had cried after walking away from the track.

Liu's face is all over advertising billboards across China
Liu's face is all over advertising billboards across China

The son of a Shanghai truck driver, Liu became a national hero overnight when he matched the then-world record to win Olympic gold in Athens in 12.91 seconds four years ago.

After a 2005 season where he struggled with injury and only managed a silver behind France's Ladji Doucoure at the world championships, he stormed back in 2006 to set a world record of 12.88 in Lausanne.

Victory in Osaka last year gave him his first world title and further ramped up the expectation that he would win gold again in Beijing.

Along with basketball player Yao Ming, Liu was marketed as the face of the Games, advertising everything from cigarettes and soft drinks to clothing, and could incite a near-riot by appearing in public, although he had been training in seclusion since his injury in May.

He was selected as a member of a consultative chamber of parliament and when the Olympic torch relay began in China in March, Liu was given the honour of taking the flame from Chinese President Hu Jintao in a nationally televised ceremony.

James Reynolds, BBC Beijing correspondent, explained; "The entire Games was almost built around Liu Xiang, since he won in Athens. Everyone you go here, you cannot move five metres without seeing an advert of him.

"The entire Games was about China taking a gold medal that was theirs - and it has been taken away from them."

Some observers questioned whether the enormous pressure on Liu had contributed to his exit - or led him to try unwisely to compete when he was in such obvious pain.

606: DEBATE
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But Feng insisted the weight of public expectation had nothing to do with his withdrawal.

"In the past year you can imagine as the Games approached, the amount of pressure building on Liu from the number of people supporting him," Feng said.

"But he was able to carry it in a relaxed way and concentrate 100% on training."

But Liu's departure did take the shine off China revelling in its best Olympic gold medal achievement to date - the country tops the table with 35 golds, three more than its total haul in Athens and well ahead of rivals US on 19.

"We have started to dream that China could surpass the sporting hegemony of the United States and become world number one in the number of gold medals," the Beijing Morning Post had said in a front page commentary on Monday.




Athletics medals table

Sunday, 24 August 2008 10:17 UK
Rank Country Gold Silver Bronze TOTAL
1 also show each event results forUSA 7 9 7 23
Men's 100m 0 0 1
Men's 110m Hurdles 0 1 1
Men's 200m 0 1 1
Men's 400m 1 1 1
Men's 400m Hurdles 1 1 1
Men's 4 x 400m Relay 1 0 0
Men's Decathlon 1 0 0
Men's Shot Put 0 1 0
Women's 10000m 0 0 1
Women's 100m Hurdles 1 0 0
Women's 200m 0 1 0
Women's 400m 0 0 1
Women's 400m Hurdles 0 1 0
Women's 4 x 400m Relay 1 0 0
Women's Discus Throw 1 0 0
Women's Heptathlon 0 1 0
Women's Pole Vault 0 1 0
2 also show each event results forRussia 6 5 7 18
Men's 20km Walk 1 0 0
Men's 4 x 400m Relay 0 0 1
Men's 50km Walk 0 0 1
Men's High Jump 1 0 1
Men's Pole Vault 0 1 0
Women's 20km Walk 1 0 0
Women's 3000m Steeplechase 1 0 1
Women's 4 x 100m Relay 1 0 0
Women's 4 x 400m Relay 0 1 0
Women's Heptathlon 0 0 1
Women's High Jump 0 0 1
Women's Javelin Throw 0 1 0
Women's Long Jump 0 1 0
Women's Pole Vault 1 0 1
Women's Triple Jump 0 1 0
3 also show each event results forJamaica 6 3 2 11
Men's 100m 1 0 0
Men's 200m 1 0 0
Men's 4 x 100m Relay 1 0 0
Women's 100m 1 2 0
Women's 200m 1 0 1
Women's 400m 0 1 0
Women's 400m Hurdles 1 0 0
Women's 4 x 400m Relay 0 0 1
4 also show each event results forKenya 5 5 4 14
Men's 10000m 0 0 1
Men's 1500m 0 1 0
Men's 3000m Steeplechase 1 0 1
Men's 5000m 0 1 1
Men's 800m 1 0 1
Men's Marathon 1 0 0
Women's 1500m 1 0 0
Women's 3000m Steeplechase 0 1 0
Women's 800m 1 1 0
Women's Marathon 0 1 0
5 also show each event results forEthiopia 4 1 2 7
Men's 10000m 1 1 0
Men's 5000m 1 0 0
Men's Marathon 0 0 1
Women's 10000m 1 0 0
Women's 5000m 1 0 1
6 also show each event results forBelarus 1 3 3 7
Men's Decathlon 0 1 0
Men's Hammer Throw 0 1 1
Men's Shot Put 0 0 1
Women's Hammer Throw 1 0 0
Women's Shot Put 0 1 1
7 also show each event results forCuba 1 2 2 5
Men's 110m Hurdles 1 0 0
Men's Decathlon 0 0 1
Men's Long Jump 0 0 1
Women's Discus Throw 0 1 0
Women's Hammer Throw 0 1 0
8 also show each event results forAustralia 1 2 1 4
Men's 20km Walk 0 0 1
Men's 50km Walk 0 1 0
Men's Pole Vault 1 0 0
Women's 100m Hurdles 0 1 0
9 also show each event results forGreat Britain 1 2 1 4
Men's High Jump 0 1 0
Men's Triple Jump 0 1 0
Women's 400m 1 0 0
Women's 400m Hurdles 0 0 1
10 also show each event results forUkraine 1 1 3 5
Men's Pole Vault 0 0 1
Women's 1500m 0 1 1
Women's Discus Throw 0 0 1
Women's Heptathlon 1 0 0
11 also show each event results forBelgium 1 1 0 2
Women's 4 x 100m Relay 0 1 0
Women's High Jump 1 0 0
12 also show each event results forNorway 1 1 0 2
Men's Javelin Throw 1 0 0
Women's 20km Walk 0 1 0
13 also show each event results forPoland 1 1 0 2
Men's Discus Throw 0 1 0
Men's Shot Put 1 0 0
14 also show each event results forItaly 1 0 1 2
Men's 50km Walk 1 0 0
Women's 20km Walk 0 0 1
15 also show each event results forNew Zealand 1 0 1 2
Men's 1500m 0 0 1
Women's Shot Put 1 0 0
16 also show each event results forBahrain 1 0 0 1
Men's 1500m 1 0 0
17 also show each event results forBrazil 1 0 0 1
Women's Long Jump 1 0 0
18 also show each event results forCameroon 1 0 0 1
Women's Triple Jump 1 0 0
19 also show each event results forCzech Republic 1 0 0 1
Women's Javelin Throw 1 0 0
20 also show each event results forEstonia 1 0 0 1
Men's Discus Throw 1 0 0
21 also show each event results forPanama 1 0 0 1
Men's Long Jump 1 0 0
22 also show each event results forPortugal 1 0 0 1
Men's Triple Jump 1 0 0
23 also show each event results forRomania 1 0 0 1
Women's Marathon 1 0 0
24 also show each event results forSlovenia 1 0 0 1
Men's Hammer Throw 1 0 0
25 also show each event results forTrinidad & Tob 0 2 0 2
Men's 100m 0 1 0
Men's 4 x 100m Relay 0 1 0
26 also show each event results forTurkey 0 2 0 2
Women's 10000m 0 1 0
Women's 5000m 0 1 0
27 also show each event results forBahamas 0 1 1 2
Men's 4 x 400m Relay 0 1 0
Men's Triple Jump 0 0 1
28 also show each event results forMorocco 0 1 1 2
Men's Marathon 0 1 0
Women's 800m 0 0 1
29 also show each event results forCroatia 0 1 0 1
Women's High Jump 0 1 0
30 also show each event results forEcuador 0 1 0 1
Men's 20km Walk 0 1 0
31 also show each event results forFrance 0 1 0 1
Men's 3000m Steeplechase 0 1 0
32 also show each event results forLatvia 0 1 0 1
Men's Javelin Throw 0 1 0
33 also show each event results forSouth Africa 0 1 0 1
Men's Long Jump 0 1 0
34 also show each event results forSudan 0 1 0 1
Men's 800m 0 1 0
35 also show each event results forChina 0 0 2 2
Women's Hammer Throw 0 0 1
Women's Marathon 0 0 1
36 also show each event results forNigeria 0 0 2 2
Women's 4 x 100m Relay 0 0 1
Women's Long Jump 0 0 1
37 also show each event results forCanada 0 0 1 1
Women's 100m Hurdles 0 0 1
38 also show each event results forFinland 0 0 1 1
Men's Javelin Throw 0 0 1
39 also show each event results forGermany 0 0 1 1
Women's Javelin Throw 0 0 1
40 also show each event results forGreece 0 0 1 1
Women's Triple Jump 0 0 1
41 also show each event results forJapan 0 0 1 1
Men's 4 x 100m Relay 0 0 1
42 also show each event results forLithuania 0 0 1 1
Men's Discus Throw 0 0 1

Olympics venues map

BBC Sport's Olympic map

Find out about the Beijing athletics and football venue

see also
Heartbreak over hurdler Liu's exit
18 Aug 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Liu injury blow in pictures
18 Aug 08 |  Athletics
Ten to watch: Liu Xiang
05 Aug 08 |  Olympics
Doubts over Liu's Olympic fitness
17 Jul 08 |  Athletics
Robles breaks 110m hurdles record
12 Jun 08 |  Athletics
BBC Olympics blog
15 Aug 08 |  Olympics
Beijing 2008
14 Feb 08 |  Olympics
Find your local athletics club
13 Oct 05 |  Get Involved


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