BEIJING, China, August 28 – Chinese 110m hurdler Liu Xiang has said he felt healthy before his spectacular exit from the London Olympics, after reports that his injury was known to authorities before the race but hushed up.
Liu, in his first major interview since he devastated Chinese fans by crashing out of the Games with a ruptured Achilles tendon, told state broadcaster CCTV that he “felt healthy standing on the starting line”.
The interview came amid controversy over Liu, a national hero who took gold in Athens in 2004 but hobbled out of the stadium for a second successive Games after also staging an early exit from the 2008 edition at home in Beijing.
It was broadcast late Thursday, after speculation online and in Chinese media that authorities in China knew before the race began that Liu was seriously injured and was unlikely to complete it.
“Standing on the line, I felt I was a healthy Liu Xiang. Actually I was having problems on my foot at the time, but I felt I could run fast,” said Liu. “(But) when I tried the first hurdle, I felt like I was lashed by a whip.”
Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post on Friday quoted an unnamed senior CCTV editor as saying the broadcaster knew Liu was injured when he arrived in London and was prevented by propaganda authorities from revealing the information.
CCTV commentator Yang Jian, who wept live on air after Liu’s exit, had reportedly admitted at an internal meeting that he knew of the injury in advance, and had prepared scripts for his possible exit.
The allegations began circulating in China on Thursday and were among the most talked about topics on Sina Weibo, a microblogging service similar to Twitter, which is banned in China.
“CCTV and Liu Xiang put on a show to trick the world,” posted one user. “For CCTV, tricking the people is the easiest choice,” wrote another.
Liu, 29, clattered into the first hurdle in his opening heat in London and fell heavily. After being helped up, he hopped the length of the course, kissed the last hurdle and was embraced by fellow competitors.
It was eerily similar to his withdrawal from the 2008 Olympics, which left a nation in shock.
Liu had shot to stardom at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, when he became China’s first male athletics champion. After his London exit, 28 million fans left messages of support on a specially created website.