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Hurdler Liu back to lead China's worlds squad

(China Daily)

16:53, August 25, 2011

BEIJING - China is reluctant to predict its gold medal tally at the upcoming IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, although former Olympic and world champion hurdler Liu Xiang should be prominent on the world stage again.

"Our goal is to win two to three medals in Daegu. But it is difficult to figure out the color of the medals," said Feng Shuyong, head coach of the Chinese athletics team, before heading to Daegu.

Although he has fully recovered from a foot injury, which forced him to withdraw from the first round of the 110m hurdles at the Beijing Olympic Games, Liu, the former world record holder, will face strong challenges from several rivals.

David Oliver of the US has performed well over the past two seasons and the 29-year-old leads the world this year with a season best 12.94 seconds. Liu's top time this year is 13.00.

World record holder Cuban Dayron Robles, who has also battled back from injury, will also be a major contender over the obstacles and has a season best of 13.04.

Another American, Jason Richardson, who clocked a personal best of 13.08 this month, will also be in the race for the crown.

"Liu is in a good technical and physical condition now," said Feng. "He has recovered from his injuries and shows high quality in his daily training.

"But it will be the first time for him to run three races in two days since his injury in 2008. The intensity will be a big challenge for him. Currently, Liu is busy with his final preparatory work in Shanghai under the guidance of his coach, Sun Haiping.

"If Liu can clock between 13.00 to 13.05, he will have a good chance to reach the podium. And the gold-winning time might be between 12.95 and 13.00."

In order to approach the world's top level again, Liu decided to adopt a new technique several months ago - approaching the first hurdle with seven steps instead of eight.

For Liu, competing at his fourth World Championships is not a daunting task.

"I fell no pressure at all," he said. "I only have to focus on myself. I want to enjoy the race. It doesn't really matter if I lose. I will have no regrets if I try my very best."

China will send a 58-strong team to Daegu, but the reigning women's marathon champion, Bai Xue, and men's race walker Wang Hao, the runner-up in the 20km at the last worlds, will be absent due to injuries.

In race walking, the absence of Wang will be made up for by the emerging trio of Wang Zhen, Chu Yafei and Chen Ding, who share the top five world leading times this year.

China will also be competitive in events like women's shot put, discus and hammer.

Gong Lijiao, the bronze medalist in women's discus at the last worlds is eyeing further improvement.

Hammer thrower Zhang Wenxiu set a new Asian record of 75.65 meters in June and her teammate, Li Yanfeng, has a world leading result of 67.98 in the discus this season.

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