BEIJING, March 10 – Chinese hurdling star Liu Xiang said his sights are set on the London 2012 Olympics after he returned home from successful foot surgery in the United States, state press reported on Monday.
"Barring anything else, I’ll definitely compete in the next Olympic Games, otherwise I would not have had this operation at all," Liu told the Titan Sports newspaper.
Liu, 25, spoke after returning to Shanghai on Sunday following three months in the United States, where he underwent an operation in December to repair the Achilles tendon that forced his dramatic withdrawal from the Beijing Olympics.
Liu, the reigning 110m world champion and 2004 Olympic gold medallist, was one of China’s brightest stars at the Games last August but he shocked the nation by pulling up lame in a qualifying heat.
Many Chinese have expressed sympathy that Liu was under excessive pressure to come back from his Achilles injury in time for the Olympics.
Liu’s coach, Sun Haiping, has said Liu will not compete in this year’s world championships in Berlin in August as he continues his recovery.
Liu said Sunday he was aware that 1.3 billion pairs of eyes would again be on him but dismissed any concerns that public pressure could affect his recovery and return to the track.
"Pressure? I don’t think there is any pressure," he was quoted saying, "I know that everyone is wondering when I’ll be able to return to the track and whether I’ll be able to run as fast. Some people call this pressure but I don’t because I know there is no reason for anxiety."
Liu underwent surgery in Houston, Texas, where he remained for three months of rehabilitation.
A top Chinese sports official told state media the operation and rehab had been highly successful.
"His recovery is better than we expected. Doctors believe that after three months of rehabilitation and training, he has actually achieved the level of recovery normally seen in four months," Feng Shuyong, vice-director of China’s Athletics Administration Center, was quoted saying by the China Daily.
Liu was less optimistic last month, quoted by state press as saying he would retire if he suffered any further serious injuries and said he was mentally prepared for life after racing.