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Feature: Robles proves his domination on hurdles without Liu Xiang
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08:52, August 22, 2008

The Cuban Dayron Robles lived up to the overwhelming favourite on hurdles, as he breezed to snatch the Olympic title after the early exit of China's Liu Xiang, his top opponent.

Robles was quickly into his stride and smooth rhythm, not grazing a single hurdle as he coasted across the line in 12.93 seconds.

The 12.93 effort was not record-breaking, but was enough to slake the thirst of the 21-year-old for an Olympic gold. After a 2-2 in head-to-heads with Liu in the 110 meters hurdles in 2007, and shaving Liu's world record of 12.88 seconds by one hundredth of a second this June, an Olympic gold is badly needed by Robles, who was eager to improve his domination on hurdles.

Liu Xiang, China's top gold hope on track, also the nation's sports icon pulled out of the race over the Achilles tendon injury before his first heat. Although American hurdles still posing threat, Robles made himself seemingly the unrivalled for the title before the final heat.

"I'm happy. I'm champion. I'm ecstatic. It's always been my dream." said Robles right after the race, wearing his trade-mark spectacles and a huge gold crucifix around his neck.

At the press conference held hours after the race, the new champion, however, said after the crowning moment, he was not euphoric by any means yet, which was something he found it hard to put into words.

"This has involved a tremendous sacrifice and you also suffer in addition to the sacrifice." he said.

"It's always tough for an athlete to drop. Injury is something common for a hurdler." he said about Liu's exist, noting they were good friends.

"Liu has always been a great competitor and athlete and you can feel it when he's on the track with you. I wish him speedy recovery." he said.

Comparing with the 25-year-old Liu, Robles appeared less mentally-tough in big events in their previous bouts. At the 2008 World Indoor Championships in Valencia, he didn't advance from the heats due to fact that he stopped running, thinking that Liu Xiang had made a false start.

This was great disappointment for Robles, who had posted 9 of the 11 fastest times of the winter season and was a favourite for winning the gold medal.

In Beijing, it seemed that he had learn to shrug off the stage fright and run in an composed but brisk manner. "I've been very calm since these Olympic Games began. I've tried to be as relaxed as possible. I'm still very calm now. " he said at the press conference.

"I'm 21 years old and I'd like to last until 36 or 37 years of age, like Colin Jackson and Alan Johnson. That's my dream." he said, obviously expecting more to come.


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