After an injury that prevented him from becoming the 110-meter hurdles champion in the 2008 Olympics, China’s Liu Xiang returned as a favorite for 2012—only to have history repeat itself.
In a preliminary heat on Aug. 7, Liu’s hopes of a gold medal were dashed as he crashed into the first hurdle, his leading leg much too low, and tumbled to the ground with a repeat injury.
Liu then hopped on his uninjured leg for the remaining distance in the race. When he reached the final hurdle, he bent down and kissed it.
Reuters quoted China’s track team leader Feng Shuyong as saying that Liu was diagnosed with a ruptured Achilles tendon, the same injury as in 2008, and one that is almost impossible to recover from fully.
One of China’s most popular athletes, Liu’s failure was devastating for many of his fans.
“Liu Xiang’s injury this time has broken my heart … Liu Xiang, you are the best, and I hope you will soon recover. Cheer up! You’re a flying man forever,” said a netizen on Sina Blog.
Other Chinese netizens expressed various feelings about Liu’s situation on their microblogs. Though some mocked the athlete’s fall, many showed sympathy and encouragement.
According to the Financial Times, Liu quickly became one of the most popular discussion topics on Sina Weibo, a Chinese microblogging community. One blogger wrote, “Xiang brother, just so long as you tried, it’s fine. Don’t burden yourself too much. I hope you can try again.”
Other voices, however, brought a different issue to light—that Liu’s re-injury and devastating failure was the result of manipulation by the Chinese Communist regime.
A blogger with the handle “Yu Zhong Ren” said on NetEase that he had predicted Liu’s failure all along—he would either fail at the very beginning or not be able to make it to the finish.
“Thoughtful people have long realized that Liu stood even less of a chance than he did in 2008,” Yu Zhong Ren said.
He believes it was not Liu’s personal choice to participate in the Olympics again. Rather, the decision was forced on him by three factors: the regime using Liu as a token of pride; interest groups, including coaches and sponsors, who seek additional benefits by supporting Liu; and the people of China, whose enthusiasm made Liu one of the nation’s most popular athletes.
“So, Liu Xiang, you are only a bargaining chip. From a deeper point of view, you are an object of sacrifice,” Yu Zhong Ren said. “I hope you will be well after retirement. After all, you have paid a huge price.”
Liu won the gold medal for the event at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. He was due to have an operation in London on Aug. 8.
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