SHANGHAI: Liu Xiang, still struggling to rid himself of the injury that has dogged him since the Beijing Olympics, is not even the best high hurdler in China any more on the evidence of Sunday’s Diamond League meeting in Shanghai.
The former 110m hurdles Olympic and world champion finished third behind Olympic bronze medallist David Oliver and, even more surprising, his compatriot Shi Dongpeng.
Such is his low level of expectation now, however, that far from being downcast by being so soundly beaten – Oliver ran 12.99 to his 13.40 – the 26-year-old was encouraged by his performance in his home city.
“13.40 is a good time for me now. I was very happy to make that time today,” said the 26-year-old.
“My foot was definitely not right. For me it was quite a challenge. Competition relies on training, systematic, intensive and high quality training. But I have had none.”
This was all a far cry from the days when Liu Xiang was in his pomp, winning gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, setting the then world record of 12.88 in Lausanne in 2006 and taking the world title in Osaka a year later.
The decline began during messy preparations for what was supposed to be his finest hour, the 2008 Olympics, and such was secrecy that surrounded him, speculation ran wild that he was either mentally or physically damaged.
The pain etched on his face as he left the Bird’s Nest after failing to start the Aug. 18 heats settled that debate and an Achilles injury took the blame for ending Chinese hopes of watching one of their own winning gold at the arena.
It took six months for a decision to be made that he should undergo surgery on his foot and since then his recovery has been so slow that suspicions have resurfaced about his mental fragility.
“I sometimes feel I am even confused about myself,” Liu Xiang added.
“Each athlete experiences ups and downs ... From being undefeatable to now eventually losing to one after another who I had never lost to, it is tough.
“But I have to deal with it, the mind set.” — Reuters