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Liu breezes to victory

By Lei Lei (China Daily)

10:18, May 07, 2012

China's star hurdler Liu Xiang opened his outdoor season with an easy victory over relatively weak opponents at the Seiko Golden Grand Prix athletic competition in Kawasaki, Japan, on Sunday.

Clocking 13.09 sec, Liu completed his first outdoor competition of the Olympic year with an unexpectedly fast time, the second best men's 110m hurdles result this season following Aries Merritt's 13.03.

"I'm satisfied with my performance," Liu wrote on his weibo account. "There are still many difficulties and challenges waiting for me en route to London. The rivals are very strong. I will work hard to do my best."

Liu's coach, Sun Haiping, had predicted Liu's time would be between 13.20 and 13.22.

Liu didn't go all-out. The course was wet because it rained just before the race, and there were no strong rivals chasing him.

The result further boosted fans' expectations heading into the London Olympic Games in July.

According to a survey on sina.com, 32.7 percent of respondents said they were excited about Liu's result.

During the indoor season this year, Liu finished with one gold, one silver and one false start in the men's 60m hurdles in the three events in Europe in February and March. After returning home from the World Indoor Championships in Turkey in March, Liu focused his training on the latter half of the course, preparing for the outdoor season.

"The smooth transition between the first and latter half of the race is very important running the full course requires a balanced distribution of physical strength," Liu said before the race in Japan. "I hope I use the indoor and outdoor seasons (to test how well my training is going). Through this outdoor race, I want to keep my ability through the first six hurdles and maintain my form for the latter half."

With the Olympics about 80 days out, Liu said he will focus on his own preparation rather than worrying about what his rivals are doing.

"My opponents all have a shot at the gold in the London Olympics, but I never look at them as my threat," Liu said. "I will learn my lesson from each of the events I've competed in and try to get better and better, so I think the biggest opponent will be myself. My opponents all have what it takes to win a title, but I have my own edge in the sport. Your final performance determines whether you win a title."

Liu cut the number of strides he takes before the first hurdle from eight to seven. The results were mixed in the indoor season, as he set a new Asian record of 7.41 sec in Birmingham, England in February, but followed that up with a false-start disqualification in his next race in Stockholm.

"The change can make you faster in the first five hurdles, but at the same time you have to keep pushing in the latter stage," Sun said. "It's really a challenge. I don't think many runners have ever done this.

Xinhua contributed to the story

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