Monday, August 18, 2008

Olympic Update: The biggest disappointment.

Aching Liu withdraws from 110 Olympic hurdles

BEIJING -- In any other city, at any other stadium, under any other circumstances, Liu Xiang might not have shown up at all.

His right hamstring's been bothering him for months. A tendon in his right foot flared up a couple of days ago.

This, however, was far from any old setting. This was the Bird's Nest, the 91,000-seat centerpiece of the Olympics. The Beijing Olympics. And this was a moment, shortly before lunchtime Monday, that Liu's country of 1.3 billion had anticipated for years: China's only track and field superstar -- one of China's most recognizable faces period -- competing to defend his 110-meter hurdles title at home.

And it ended after all of two full strides.

What people don't know is how huge Liu Xiang is in China. He is the country's Michael Phelps, a superstar that the whole country was waiting to see compete. And so was I. And he didn't even make it to the first hurdle.

The 110 meter hurdles was the my most anticipated event that I wanted to see. We had three great hurdlers that all could have won. Xiang and Cuba's Dayron Robles would have been the favorites, while American David Oliver would have been right there.

I am reading that a lot of the Chinese are disappointed in Xiang that he didn't at least try and compete. As a former hurdler myself who eventually quit the sport because of hamstring problems. I know there is nothing worse than dealing with hamstrings and hurdles. The one time I tried to run a race with a bad hamstring, I never made it over the first hurdle. I did a face plant into the track, and laid there bruised and bloody for a few minutes before I got up. Its a lot better to just walk away, instead of tripping and falling and then being helped up.

My crash was a more violent version of this.

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