Liu Xiang has been forced out of the 110m hurdles at the first hurdle (apologies), due to a leg injury. Round 1 of his event began this morning, and, but not before rumours were fluttering around the Bird’s Nest that he was injured. The crowd were on edge, but when Liu valliently came out for his heat it seemed at first that the fears were in fact unfounded. However Liu’s race ended before it had begun, as at a false start he pulled up unable to clear the first barrier. As the other racers returned to their marks Liu had to admit defeat…
Here is the live text coverage as it happened from the BBC (time is BST = Beijing +7):
0451: This is going to end in tears – Liu Xiang walks out to a rapturous applause, only for a packed stadium to see their tyro pull up holding his Achilles after going through a warm-up sprint. He looks utterly gutted, but he’s only gone and pulled off his tracksuit bottoms – he’s going to run this – he’s only going to run this ruddy race!
0454: This is just horrible – Liu Xiang winces as he sets himself in the blocks, only to pull up after a false start. And that’s it – the white flag has been waved, the defending champion admits defeat and returns to the changing rooms. I don’t think the capacity crowd at the Bird’s Nest have actually understood what has just gone on.
It’s a bit soon to gage the reaction of the Chinese public to this sad, sad news. Bob’s colleagues are stunned, and fairly unwilling to talk about it. Won’t push it!
It’s worth remembering the huge amount of expectation on Liu; the 1# Chinese Olympic dream was to see Liu retain his gold, and he was even compared to Communist hero Lei Feng.
He clearly wanted to run so badly, he must have known that there was no real way that he could compete with his injury, but couldn’t bring himself to pull out until it was literally impossible to continue.
Just to compound a sad morning for Bob, one of Britain’s triple jump stars, and a former classmate of your truly, Nathan Douglas has not reached the qualifying distance for the final. Gutted.
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Posted in Athletes, Public expectation, The Games, Track and Field, World Records, tagged 100m hurdles, dayron robles, high hurdles, Liu Xiang, olympics, ostrava, world record, world record holder on 12 June 2008|
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Cuba’s Dayron Robles has toppled Liu Xiang’s 110m hurdles world record. The 21-year-old clocked 12.87 seconds, beating Liu’s time by just 0.01 seconds and smashing his own personal best. Liu was not racing.
Check out Robles’ reaction here:
Olympic favourite in more ways than one, Liu Xiang is not only expected to successfully defend his Olympic title, but is one of the most popular athletes in the host country. If the pressure from 1.3 billion people’s expectations was not great enough, Liu now has to contend with a new world record holder. Many Chinese hearts will be beating a little faster when they hear the news this Friday morning…
Much has been said about the pressure Liu will face this year; seeing him win gold in the Bird’s Nest was number one in a poll of the Chinese public’s Olympic dreams. Comparisons have been drawn between Liu and more traditional Chinese heroes.
Despite having started his season well, Liu missed two races this week through disqualification and a slight injury. Meanwhile Robles could not have timed this form better, and will join Usain Bolt as a new favourite come August.
The main events in Beijing certainly look to be hotting up! Let’s hope the athletics can outshine the drugs rumours and protests after all!
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On his blog BBC Beijing correspondent James Reynolds has carried out an impromptue and “unscientific” poll to find the “top 10 Chinese people you should know about“.
Made up from contributions from readers the list includes three Olympians (past & present). Liu Xiang and Yao Ming, readers should all be familiar with, but another name may be less recognisable outside of China; Li Ning.
Li Ning won three gold medals in the 1984 Olympic Games as a gymnast. Impressive in itself, but his inclusion in this hit list is due to his entrepreneurial success with his own sports brand. Visitors to China – particularly anyone who has taught in China – should be familiar with the Li Ning ‘squiggle’ logo (in the background of the image below).
The rest of the top 10 were, Hu Jintao, Wen Jiabao, Yuan Longping, Yang Liwei, Zhang Ziyi, Li Jiacheng and Zhang Yimou.
Investigate the full list for yourself; obvious ommissions may include Ang Li, Jackie Chan and Jay Chou. Two years ago Jay Chou was certainly the biggest celeb going and a huge part of Chinese popular culture, and Bob’s students certainly regarded him as Chinese. In fact there does seem to be a bit of favouritism to mainland stars here… hoping to avoid debate over who is and is not Chinese perhaps?
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Olympic 110m hurdles champion Liu Xiang has begun is season as he means to continue it in Beijing, with a gold medal.
(Via Xinhua) Liu said: “I’ve always started my season strongly in Osaka so I hope this will be a good omen.” As Liu knows very well, the rest of China is hoping this is omen comes to fruition in Beijing in August.
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A great story from the Wall Street Journal, via Mary Nicole Nazzaro’s Beijing Olympics Blog about the new role models emerging in Chinese society. The focus is on the switch from the communist role models, of which Lei Feng is the most legendary, to sports stars and internet entrepreneurs, most notably Liu Xiang.
“Communist heroes were usually idealized, perfect people, and, more often than not, dead.”
Chinese detective writer Qiu Xiaolong‘s book ‘Death of a Red Heroine‘ describes the life (and death) of a model worker in the China of 1990’s economic reforms; a good read for anyone interested. (The book is also a good ‘beginner’s guide to 20th Century Chinese history, with a story.)
“Traditionally in China heroes must be winners first and foremost. That has been the essence of the iconic success of professional basketball player Yao Ming. The 27-year-old National Basketball Association player is treated as a national treasure. Though he wasn’t the first Chinese player to join the NBA, he was the first to dominate in it — showing that Chinese are among the world’s best.”
Bob previously wrote similar when Yao Ming suffered an injury that threatened his Olympic dream.
The main star of the article, and one of the biggest hopes for the Olympics is Liu Xiang. Earlier this year the Chinese public voted their top Olympic dream, to see Liu retain his 110m hurdles gold and there has been great speculation over the pressure Liu is under.
“Mr. Liu, the gold-medal-winning hurdler, is seen as both a hero for the nation who wins gold, and a populist hero who embodies the greater individuality prized by younger Chinese. One important factor: The sport at which he excels wasn’t chosen by the state. Originally a high-jumper, Mr. Liu made an unusual switch into hurdling at age 15, after his original sports school had given up on him.
“He also is admired for the way he conducts himself off the field. Mr. Liu is known as a spunky, everyday kid who exudes a kind of personality that also isn’t handed down by the state. On a victory lap through Hong Kong after his 2004 win, he sang for adoring fans.”
Read and make up your own minds.
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Deng Yaping is not a household name outside China. (In fact if you Google her name the intuitive search engine asks if you mean Deng Xiaoping.) But Yaping is one of China’s greatest Olympians having won four gold medals, despite her diminutive height. In contrast her public stature could not be much larger, illustrated by the fact that she was voted Chinese female athlete of the century.
What may distinguish this athlete even more, are her non-athletic achievements. Retiring at the age of 24, she has an undergrad degree at one of China’s most prestigious Universities, and a Masters at the University of Nottingham ( a University which has fostered it’s links to China, and was the founder of the first Sino-Foreign university in China with approval from the Chinese Ministry of Education) and is now working on a PhD at Cambridge. And in a couple of weeks Yaping will celebrate her 35th birthday – as long as responsibilities as a member of the IOC and deputy manager of the Olympic village don’t come in the way, of course.
So, it could be said that there are few people more entitled to speak about the pressures that the Chinese stars will be facing in the home Olympics this summer. This has been discussed here before in reference to Liu Xiang, but it can rightly be related to the table tennis players too, who will have even higher expectations on them.
This story was picked up by TIME. To see a video interview with Deng Yaping, filmed last Autumn, visit CNN.
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China Daily has published the results of a survey asking people what they most wished for from the Olympics (as picked up by China Digital Times). Top of the pile was to be there to see Liu Xiang retain his gold medal in the 110m hurdles final. It seems Mr Liu may have more pressure on him than even the organising committee when The Games roll around.
He has dealt tremendously well with the pressure so far, and claims to revel in it, though the news that he would be training in isolation has prompted speculation over the effects of this pressure. Comparisons are clearly drawn with the jubilant success of Cathy Freeman in 2000 and the farcical drama of Konstantinos Kenteris 4 years later, both in front of expectant home crowds. While american sports blog FanNation fails to name a single US athlete who has ever “garnered the kind of attention that Liu Xiang, China’s 110-meter hurdlers star, will have to contend with in China over the next year”.
Apparently the survey included participants from 49 countries, though the answers do seem to be particularly Chinese-focused.
Other survey results in the China Daily report are less interesting, and fit more into the paper’s standard role of pro-Party organ grinding.
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