China shocked as star athlete Liu withdraws

August 18th, 2008 - 2:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 18 (DPA) Chinese athletic hopes at the Beijing Olympics suffered a major set-back Monday when medal hope and defending champion Liu Xiang left over an apparent injury as he was to compete in his 110m hurdles heat. Liu, who is regarded as a national treasure in the country, showed up for the race and got out of the blocks in a false start before limping off after taking just two strides.

He then walked of the track in front of a shocked crowd as the heat took place without him.

Liu’s coach had hinted earlier that the national icon was plagued by an inflamed Achilles tendon and hamstring problems. Liu, who is China’s most popular Olympic athlete, won gold in 2004 and was world champion in 2007. He held the world record 2006-2008.

The 25-year-old carried the burden of the whole country but due to his mishaps had not competed since mid-May and gone into hiding. The withdrawal must be a major blow to the ambitions and pride of himself and the nation.

Liu was seen in the call room afterwards, sitting on the ground in and feeling his Achilles tendon.

The crowd, which at first had held its breath in anticipation of the race and gave Liu a roaring welcome as he entered the stadium, fell into an eerie silence and thousands left the packed national stadium instantly.

Liu’s tragic fate relegated all other events in the morning session to secondary status.

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