Was it injury or pressure that got to hurdler Liu?
Tuesday, 19 August 2008

BEIJING, Aug 18 (bdnews24.com/Reuters) - He Sheng came to the Olympics just to watch Liu Xiang defend his 110 metre hurdles crown and instead saw him limp away from his first-round heat with the dashed hopes of a nation weighing on his shoulders.

"I am extremely disappointed," He said. "I think he may have wanted to win too much and could have caved under the pressure… The injury may be an excuse."

After a false start, Liu, whose face adorns advertising billboards across the country, clutched his right thigh and walked off the Bird's Nest stadium track on a sunny Monday morning.

"I feel like I am being fooled," Beijing student Yu Zuoliang said. "What happened to him?"

Liu had won gold in Athens in 2004 and was China's best hope for success in the showpiece track events. He ranks alongside basketball player Yao Ming as China's most famous athlete.

Others sympathised with an athlete who had 1.3 billion people cheering him on.

In a survey of more than a million Chinese carried out at the end of last year, the top Olympic dream was to witness Liu winning gold.

Bai Bing, 27, who works for an internet company in Beijing, said if Liu was not seriously injured, it was a failure for Liu himself.

"It's not important at all whether he wins or loses," he said. "What really matters is to try and run."

Lea Zhang, 28, who works for an international non-governmental organisation in Beijing, said Liu must have not wanted to do anything but his best.

"So I guess that's why he gave up at the last minute," he said. "Let's be realistic. Liu is a human, not a god."

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