BEIJING, China, August 7 – China was in shock Tuesday as athletics hero Liu Xiang crashed out of the Olympic 110m hurdles in a nightmarish reminder of the 2008 Beijing Games when he was forced to withdraw.
Even state television sports commentator Yang Jian could not hold back his tears as he reported the news to a stunned nation. His sobs were heard live during the broadcast of Liu’s elimination.
Liu, a former world record holder and winner of the 2004 Olympic crown, ploughed into the first hurdle and crashed to the ground to end his London dreams, however he is not considering retirement China’s athletics team leader said shortly after the disappointment.
The Internet was instantly flooded with comments on the national hero’s performance, with Liu nicknamed “Liu Shuaishuai” (Liu fell-fell) on Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter.
“I never imagined that you would say goodbye in this way to your third Olympiad,” one commentator using the name “Maymaypmp” said in a microblog posted on Sina Weibo.
Liu — who has been troubled by back and foot problems in the past month — was helped off the track and then taken away from the arena in a wheelchair and then to the medical centre.
“A single injury to a man causes suffering to a population of 1.3 billion people,” said another user posting as “AAAAA”.
“How cruel competitive sports are! Liu Xiang is getting old,” said “Kouyamin”, also on Weibo.
But some were more sympathetic to their fallen idol.
“Liu Xiang you are still our hero,” said “SowahFong”.
Liu’s dream of winning gold in front of his home crowd at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 ended in one of the great Olympic anti-climaxes as he turned up for his heat but failed to clear a hurdle, clearly hindered by an Achilles tendon injury.
It took more than a year for him to return to competition at the top level.
Liu then put everything into attempting to realise his dream of Olympic glory in London. He even decided to escape the English capital and its gloomy weather to take refuge in Germany’s milder climate in mid-July.
With this new disappointment, some Internet users did not spare Liu, accusing him of putting on an act.
But the vast majority were full of support and wanted to comfort him.
“My heart nearly exploded when Liu Xiang fell, and I heard the commentator sob … Liu was beaten so badly this time, he was carrying so many hopes.
“It must be terrible for him. But Liu Xiang, we are proud to have you. Do not put the whole weight of the world on his shoulders. Everything will be OK,” gushed “Matata” on a microblog.
China’s athletics team leader Feng Shuyong said Liu’s injury was the same he suffered at the 2008 Games but that he could make a comeback, Xinhua reported late Tuesday.
“The initial diagnosis from the medical staff is that he had a broken Achilles tendon,” he said.
“It’s hard to say. Lots of athletes get injured and come back. It depends on many factors. I hope all the fans can understand this and that anything can happen. It happens to many athletes.”