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Liu Xiang: Chinese Hurdles Hero

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Liu Xiang: Chinese Hurdles Hero

Liu Xiang

Stu Forster/Getty Images
Coming into the 2008 Beijing Games, China's star hurdler was hampered during his training by a series of hamstring injuries and recurring Achilles inflammation. With the pressure of a nation on his back Liu pushed on and was determined to compete. In his first Olympic heat, however, Liu hobbled out of the blocks during a false start. Unable to continue, he peeled off his numbers and left the track as the stunned Beijing fans watched in disbelief. He didn't return to competition until Sept. 20, 2009, when Terrence Trammell edged Liu in a photo finish. Both were clocked in 13.15 seconds.

School days:

Liu began attending a sports school at age 12 to train as a high jumper. At 15, Chinese officials decided he wouldn’t grow tall enough to compete as a high jumper, but hurdles coach Sun Haiping felt Liu could be a good hurdler. When Liu’s parents withdrew him from the school, Sun traveled to Liu’s home and spoke to his extended family – more than 20 people, including parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles – asking that Liu return to the sports school. Liu’s father, Liu Xuegen, then decided that Liu would return to the school.

Celebrity status:

The personable Liu is extremely popular in China. He draws adoring crowds to personal appearances and promotes numerous products, including soft drinks and clothing. Liu reportedly keeps 70 percent of his earnings, from both competitions and endorsements, with 30 percent going to China’s track federation and the Shanghai sports system through which he developed his skills as a teenager.

Career highlights:

Liu won the gold medal in the 110 hurdles at the 2004 Olympics. In the World Outdoor Championships he progressed from third place in 2003 to second in ’05 before winning the gold in Osaka in ’07. In World Indoor 60-meter hurdles competition, Liu won the bronze in 2003, the silver in 2004 and the gold in 2008. He set a world 110 hurdles record of 12.88 seconds in 2006, which was beaten by Dayron Robles (12.87) in 2008.

The stats:

  • Height: 6-2
  • Weight: 163
  • Birth date: July 3, 1983
  • Hometown: Shanghai, China
  • World Championships: Two

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