Changing China

Giant on the move

Liu Xiang injury breaks China hearts

August 18, 2008

Liu Xiang walks away

Liu Xiang’s quest to win a home Olympic gold ended before it had begun on Monday, as an injury prevented the 110 metre hurdler from starting his first heat.

China’s world and Olympic champion, the host nation’s best hope of an athletics gold medal at the Beijing Games, pulled up after a false start and walked off the track, stunning the huge crowd at the Bird’s Nest stadium into silence.

Liu’s preparations for the Olympics were hindered by a hamstring injury, and later an Achilles problem. It appeared to be a recurrence of the former injury on Monday as he grimaced in pain after leaving the blocks.

Along with basketball player Yao Ming, Liu is China’s favourite sportsman and there was a huge weight of expectation on him going into his home Games.

More later.

PHOTO: China’s Olympic champion Liu Xiang walks away after failing to start his 110 metres hurdles first-round heat at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, August 18, 2008. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn


Here i have to add, being an eyewitness to the entire event and also in the process of being a fan of Chinese athletics spoils in the recent years, Liu was definitely in the public eye, whether in or out of the bird’s nest. He rose to fame almost at the same pace he took to win the gold, shinning medal at the Athens, and was fuelled more with lucrative sponsorships and endorsement deals. Chinese never really performed anywhere near the word Atheletics, so undoubtedly, Liu’s gold, sparkled the Chinese atheletes considering they added 6 new contestants in track and field to the existing team. Anyways, Liu definitely cashed on his new founded fame with his face splashed all over. I mean literally all over. Of course there was Yao Ming in there somewhere too.
The craze and the tide of expectation he created this Olympics can be judged by the fact, that Chinese tele hired a special chopper with a repoter to hover over the bird’s nest to catch a glimpse of Liu before anybody. Now that was a first! Anyways, pressure was mounting and there was a point, when a stadium containing almost 0.001% of the Chinese population + foreign delegation and atheletes, reporters, your’s truely et al, batted their respective breaths together, same time, for Liu.
Cumulative injury or cumulative pressure, something cumulative was definitely in play there somewhere, but the cumulative silence that i heard at the nest, will reverberate long, that i can tell.

Posted by ma | Report as abusive

i’m a Chinese,i’ve seen liu’s competition on’s a fact hard for me to accept.But we can see soars on his face before the game started.

there’re some criticles saying that it’s a trauma for the Chinese and also for Liu.Some ppl think that Liu will need a long time to recovery from today’s quit.

Liu is doing his best.He’s a great guy in China.

Posted by isaac hu | Report as abusive

So many people here in China are gethering together just for Liu Xiang. Everyone was cheering for him just before the race started. However, after we saw he injured on the track, all of us were so nervous that no one could even talk and cheer. Then we heard from the TV that he gave it up because of the unbearable pain, everyone was crying, my mother, my father, my cousin and my friends around me… It’s heartbreaking.

Liu Xiang became the symbol of New China.I guess, in most Chinese hearts, even 10 more gold medals could not compensate the loss of this gold…

American could not understand this. But it is ture. So please, be nice on the comment about it…

Posted by Tears for Liu Xiang | Report as abusive

Come on,Liu Xiang!There are more chances coming to you!

Posted by Jojo | Report as abusive

I live in Singapore and watched this live on TV here. I was like thinking when he pulled out – ‘Oh no, oh no’.

Posted by diana | Report as abusive

Thanks very much for those comments. I knew that this race was very important for China and I was shocked when I saw Liu walk away. I was quite moved by your story of the silence in the Bird’s Nest, Ma, as well as the story of the family crying around the TV, Tears…
The pressure on Liu must have been immense, and he obviously tried so hrd to be fit, but it was just not possible.
I hope there is still a gold medal for China on the track.

Posted by Kevin Fylan | Report as abusive

A good guy

Posted by tangjinde | Report as abusive

Sports often mirrors life, and in this instance, it was truly heartbreaking to see the event unfolding before my eyes. I hope Liu Xiang will recover from this and come back stronger, and that the Chinese people will stand behind him and not allow a talent to fade from the pressure.



We can’t image what will happen tomorrow although turn the clock quickly this evening, just like we can’t image Liu Xiang will pull up the Olimpics games this morning, Of course we are disappoint. His coach Sun Haiping cried just now, not for LiuXiang’s pulled up, but for the pain of his felling for his boy’s pain on the foot, as we know, at the last several minutes, LiuXiang is still making massage by a special doctor that was called for his injury. I was deeply touched. I’m Chinese, and I’m LiuXiang’s fan, I feeling his pain, I feeling his disappoint, but now I want to say: “LiuXian, we’ll still give you our best support, you hold your huge pain, standing on the field, trying your best to start your race, although not succsess, but you showed your strength, you showed your determination, you are a really hero! “ At noon, some journalist ask some strange question like “why told the injury to people before?”, and “if the decision was made before? “That were so funny, because these journalist do not really know how deeply that Chinese people’s love for LiuXiang, and they do not really know big of the LiuXiang’s strength and determination. The spirit of Olympic, is not only embodied by Michal Phillps’s eight gold medal, but also embodied by LiuXiang. At last, I want say to LiuXiang “keep going on, that is no matter! “

Posted by zhanglihan | Report as abusive

It’s quite mortifying to see some people blaming Liu for this to happen. Just to remind these people that Liu is just a regular guy who is also susceptible to physical pain. Try to stand in his shoes. He’s not superman. I’ve experienced pain in the tendon of my heels before and it’s quite tormenting if you even try to stand up straight (pressure of your weight). At this point in time, he deserves our support rather than blame.

Posted by Fitch | Report as abusive

my gosh i kind of want to cry reading these comments about what happened today. I think i want to cry because i keep thinking about how Liu Xiang is feeling. What he is going through, what he will have to cop from the media, parents, friends, coach and EVERYONE. it\’s so sad… all the preasure and nerves… sometimes they really can get the better of you and even if they don\’t… it\’s really hard to handle such a huge amount of pressure.

it takes a lot of strength and courage to even get up to a moment like this, and i’m pretty sure that if he thought that he could’ve gone on and “try” to compete… he probaly would’ve. no one wants to lose by just walking away. given the choice, i’m sure he would’ve thought of any other way to try and pull through the race. but obviously couldn’t, so why can’t people accept his decision and instead of being angry and all…stand by him like loyal fans are supposed to?

we shouldn’t be ashamed of what he did today. We shouldn’t be ashamed of him at all. Being an athlete there will always be a time where they will dissapoint their fans, but as fans… we are should support him no matter what.

I commend him on what he did today, even having the courage to do what he did is just… really unbelievable. When you fail to deliver your expectations or achieve your goal… there is no bigger dissapointment or pain that you feel… than your own.

Posted by Mia | Report as abusive

Liu Xiang is a great athlete, and even the greatest athletes of our time have moments like this. I know that Liu Xiang did his best, despite the tormenting pain that he must’ve felt on his heel. As a Chinese, I am disappointed that Liu Xiang cannot display his incredible athleticism today, but nobody can argue against the heart and strength of this great man. Liu Xiang, we will always support you!

Posted by Virginia | Report as abusive

I pray for your safety and hope that you can fully recover from your injury. People all over the world care for you and think of you as a hero. You’re a brave man to face obstacles in life and to rise again to pursue your dreams.Just remember the sayings of the great Chinese philosopher,Confucius “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”.


don’t load all your dreams on a single man


This is no doubt the most shocking news for people who care for Liu Xiang. Had never imaged he would end the Olympic this way. As a fan, I feel painful, but I am sure Liu Xiang is suffering more from this decision. I like Liu Xiang,not only because he is one of the most excellent sportsmen, but because the shinny smile always seen on his face! I want to say to Liu Xiang, giving up is also a very brave choice, and we are all looking forward to seeing your shinny smiles very soon! Take care!

Posted by Shirley | Report as abusive

Glory or shame, some choice.

Posted by Kiss of X | Report as abusive

Liu Xiang is only an ordinary person

Posted by wape | Report as abusive

thx for deleting my comment.. Why?

Posted by Andras Selmeczi | Report as abusive

Liu Xiang is a class act……….a real gentlemen.


I’m a Chinese,and my English is not very good.
Liu means a lot for Chinese.
But we will say,he is still the best in our mind,we care him more than a gold medal.
He is a great athlete

Posted by Cindy Xu | Report as abusive

There are lots of noises online in China – those who sympathize with Liu and those who blame him for a lack of “Olympic spirit” for failing to even walk to the finishing line. There is even, quite shockingly, a piece of article which is claimed to be written by a Nike internal staff stating that the whole back-out was previously ‘planned’ and ‘staged’. Whatever the truth may be, my heart goes out to Liu. Everyone has their time of weakness, their heart of darkness. If he broke down and failed to complete the race chiefly due to the unsurmountable pressure, it would nevertheless be understandable – it is humanity.

I do hope the Chinese population would be able to lend kindness, leniency and breathing space to Liu, whether or not he decides to return to the tracks, he has got a life to live.

Posted by FT | Report as abusive

allez Ladji Doucouré!!!!!! His medal is for France now.

free t i b e t

Posted by sekikawa | Report as abusive

This is punishment for China being violent to Tibet and oppressing it.

Posted by justice | Report as abusive

i guess there’s always next time! but it wouldn’t be the same.. not in beijing…

quite normal for athletes to get injured.. but this really let down China’s expectations, didn’t it?

Posted by LYT | Report as abusive

He is a real hero in our hearts.One world,One China.We expect you standing up soon…

Posted by real justice | Report as abusive

Hey, sekikawa & justice
What relation exists between Liu and Tibet? It’s ridiculous and strange to put them together.
I bet that you know poorly nothing about what’s going on in China today.

Posted by James | Report as abusive

to sekikawa & justice: why relate liu with tibet? is there nothing else you could express?

have ever been to tibet? have you ever been to china? how much do you know about tibet? how much do you know about china?

Posted by wjbplus | Report as abusive

@James.. i never said that Liu and Tibet are related!
For ex. what i meant: Everything you do has energy and that energy comes back to you some day and it isn`t necessary for that energy to come back the same way you were giving it.. and if you do something bad, something bad is going to happen to you or to your love ones (same for doing sth good, nice) some day. And if you do bad things over and over again, bad energies will be coming to you for so long until you realize that you are wrong and should change the way you act.
This is te way energies exchange. Hope you understand what i meant.. this are complicated things to explain. And politics should never interfere in sports, i agree.

Posted by justice | Report as abusive

to sekikawa & justice:I am sorry for your poor knowledge of China.Tibet WAS,IS,and ALWAYS WILL BE a part of China!!Your words hurt me deeply.Do you know how immense disaster that the terrorist brought to Tibet?? The terrorist who pretend Tibetan killed and hurt many innocent people.Tibetan love her motherland,and all the people of all the nation will always get together.We love China,we are proud of being Tibetan.

Posted by littlebusy | Report as abusive

I hope that the media will be kind to Liu Xiang and that our people will put less pressure on our Olympic Hero! He may not be able to run this time due to, what is obviously, a terrible injury, but people should remind themselves not what he cannot do this time, but of the GLORY and hope he had once brought to China. Liu Xiang – we will continue to support you!

Posted by K Wong | Report as abusive

liu xiang! best wishes for u..hope u have a speedy recovery!
i also hope you can redeem your olympic medal loss, by breaking the hurdles world record in the future! all the best to you!

Posted by sports lover | Report as abusive

nike ad:

Posted by sports lover | Report as abusive

I’m very proud of Liu Xiang regardless of whether or not there was a gold medal and I think Cindy’s comment above says the most – he is mmuch ore important than a gold medal and I’m sure he will rest and come back. There are things much more important than a piece of gold.

When I watch all these chinese athletes in Beijing, I really think they must face so much more pressure than any other country because 1.3bn people are watching. And as a developing country sometimes looked down upon by people in the western world, we want to show the world what China can do and succeed where we traditionally fault. Watching Cheng Fei in the women’s gymnastics was another such moment. A young girl who could be so much more carefree chose to take a tough path and pursue her dream to make her country proud. People like her and Liu Xiang deserve our respect and as Chinese people we need to support them. I’m glad others think alike. I know Liu Xiang will recover and come back and let’s hope the media don’t make it too difficult for him.

To sekikawa & justice:
There’s absurd ignorance in your comments and very typical western ‘media brainwash’ if you ask me. Be more skeptical of what facts you get and whether you get ALL the facts. Just because you see certain people in the news fighting for freedom doesn’t mean they represent the ENTIRE region. You have no right to pass judgment.

And no, what doesn’t kill us will only make us stronger, I think Chinese people will unite in their support for Liu Xiang. Jia You!!

Posted by Loni | Report as abusive

All this media frenzy over his withdrawal from the race is overwhelming. We can empathise all we want but the truth is we have absolutely no idea what he is going through. He is just human after all and shit happens sometimes. Unfortunately, very bad timing. I am so sick of hearing these “fans” criticising him for pulling out and suggesting that he should have finished the race..and risk permanent injury?? And last time I checked, he doesn’t owe ANYONE ANYTHING. What he did proved that he’s a fighter, and we should support him. And a note to JUSTICE – China and Liu Xiang are completely different entities, to say that this is some form of “karma” or “punishment” is ridiculous. I’ve grown up in a western society and i embrace the all the values it has instilled in me. However, I choose NOT to be sucked in by propaganda. I think a lot of people are just jumping on the bandwagon because it’s so “cool” to protest about some political issue they probably have no knowledge about. I believe the policies of every country has its flaws and some ideologies have become obsolete in this day and age, but China has come such a long way. With all this media-bashing, it’s only natural to be defensive about certain issues. ANyways, my point is that we shouldn’t put Liu Xiang on a pedestal, he’s one of the many amazingly talented athletes taking part in these Games. I wish him all the best for the future and hope that he will be happy in whatever he chooses to pursue.

Posted by s | Report as abusive

To Liu Xiang-I been covering your progress but there’s nothing to suggest you have overcome your injury 11 months after the Olympics what are you doing


Posted by Dougie Aldred NZ | Report as abusive

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