Average performance but Liu still shines

10:50, November 12, 2009      

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China's Liu Xiang competes during his heat of the men's 110m hurdles at the Asian Championships in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, yesterday. The former world and Olympic champion cruised into today's final with the best time of 13.82 seconds. Zhongti

GUANGZHOU: The Asian Athletics Championships appear little more than a training run in the grander scheme of star hurdler Liu Xiang's comeback to competition.

The former world and Olympic champion cruised into the final yesterday morning in this southern city with a pedestrian time of 13.82 seconds. That is far off his former world record and personal best of 12.88 but it was good enough to reach this evening's final.

Although it was a weekday morning, 30 percent of the 80,000-seat stadium was filled with spectators and the cheering for Liu lasted from his first appearance on the track until he crossed the line.

"I came to watch Liu and cheer his successful comeback," said a spectator. "I know it's easy for him to win here."

The media was also out in force to watch Liu. About 100 followed his first-round run yesterday but only a few were around on Tuesday's first day of competition. An additional label was also required when reporters entered the mixed zone yesterday.

"We predicted such a situation with the media today so we have more officials and volunteers here," an official from the organizing committee told China Daily before Liu's race. "The mixed zone was almost empty yesterday."

However, Liu disappointed reporters in the interview zone by only talking to CCTV and Guangdong TV.

"It's the first time I have represented China since the Beijing Olympic Games, so I'm very happy," Liu told the stations. "This race is a training class for me. I hope to reach my best form gradually."

China's No 1 track and field star walked away from the Beijing Olympic hurdles' first round due to a serious right Achilles tendon injury. He received surgery in the US and was absent from the track for almost 13 months before returning to competition at the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix in September.

At the Shanghai event, Liu finished in the surprising time of 13.15 and lost narrowly to US world No 2 Terrence Trammell.

One month later, at the National Games, Liu clocked 13.34 to win his third Games' title.

Yesterday, he was first in his heat and easily qualified for the Asian Champs final. Liu's performance pleased his coach, Sun Haiping.

"Liu shouldered no pressure in this race," Sun said. "He finished it smoothly and did well. After the race at the National Games, Liu's ankle felt a little bit sore but it has recovered well. I think Liu will win the final in a time between 13.40 to 13.50."

Liu's national teammate, Shi Dongpeng, fifth at the 2007 Worlds, clocked 13.87 to also qualify for the final.

Liu is expected to win his third straight gold at the Asian Championships tonight and earn a ticket to run for Asia at the World Cup next year in Croatia.

The World Cup title is the only one Liu needs to reach his "Grand Slam", as he already has Olympic and World Championships under his belt.

He won Olympic gold at the 2004 Athens Games and the World Championships crown in Osaka in 2007.

Source:China Daily
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