Changing China

Giant on the move

Liu Xiang’s game for a laugh

May 28, 2008

China’s world and Olympic champion Liu reacts as an official indicates he false-started in the Men’s 110m Hurdles semi-final at the Good Luck Beijing China Athletics OpenLiu Xiang, China’s top athlete, was the undoubted star of the show at the China Open Beijing Olympic test event at the Bird’s Nest last weekend and cruised to an easy victory over a weak field in the 110 metres hurdles.

Such is the national obession with his retaining his Olympic title in August, though, that two false starts in three days caused some consternation among his many fans.

Liu’s coach, Sun Haiping, blamed the Chinese characteristics of the starting pistol. The world record holder himself, while conceding his premature getaway in Saturday’s final was a mistake, had a more simple explanation for his yellow card on Friday.

“I deliberately made the false start in the semi-final in order to have a bit of fun,” he said after the final.

If you’re a multimillionaire athlete who can’t go out to shop or eat in a restaurant in your own country for fear of being mobbed by adoring fans, I guess you have to take your amusements where you find them.

The 24-year-old does have a good sense of humour but that might not be the beginning and end of it all.   

Liu’s slender build puts him at a disadvantage against his more powerful rivals over the first few metres of a race, a disadvantage his superior hurdling technique enables him to overcome over the full 110 metres.

If you bear in mind that the IAAF rules punish a second false start in any one race with disqualification, regardless of who jumped the gun the first time, it might not be the worst thing for a poor starter to do to keep his rivals on their toes.  

Picture by David Gray

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