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Respect is Liu Xiang's next big hurdle

By Du Liya (Global Times)

09:25, August 16, 2012

China's Liu Xiang kisses a hurdle after men's 110m hurdles heat at London 2012 Olympic Games, London, Britain, Aug. 7, 2012. Liu Xiang tumbled and was disqualified for semifinal. (Xinhua)

In the tumultuous week since China's star hurdler, Liu Xiang, tumbled out of the London Olympics, had surgery in London and hobbled home to Shanghai Tuesday, many of his once adoring fans have turned into skeptics who are questioning his integrity.

Some 97 percent of participants in the Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Daily's "send a wish" to Liu made doubting, nasty comments. Many of the 1,000 people who posted a one-sentence wish to Liu, called him a good actor.

Many of the comments suggested Liu's exit, during which he hopped to the last hurdle and gave it a kiss, was overly dramatic.

"I wish Liu wins an Oscar award for his performance," said a netizen wrote under the name Yuteng.

Other comments suggested Liu took part in the first heat knowing he would fail. They suggested he was already injured but participated so he could milk his fame and collect his sponsorship fees in the run-up to his first heat.

Liu is China's third richest athlete reportedly earning $3.5 million last year. Only tennis star Li Na and basketball player Yi Jianlian made more.

Chinese sports officials say the idea that Liu was forced to compete despite being physically unable is nonsense. "Our priority is to protect athletes, if we could have predicted he would be injured, no one would have let Liu run," Feng Shuyong, China's athletics team leader in London, told the Xinhua News Agency.

Liu's biggest sponsor, Nike, published an advertisement aimed at cheering up Liu after his second failure in consecutive Olympic games. Netizens again suggested Liu was forced by sponsors to take part in the match despite being not fit to compete.

A Nike public relations officer quoted by the Guangzhou-based 21st Century Business Herald denied there was a conspiracy to make Liu run.

"Great expectations sometimes create more anxiety," said Lou Dapeng, an honorary lifetime vice president of the International Association of Athletic Federations. "The public experienced disappointment four years ago and showed anger towards Liu's failure in London largely due to their hopes for him."

"It is unfair for Liu to be heavily criticized. Despite Liu's commercial success, he is basically an athlete who has been training hard for years. Incidents in competitions happen to every athlete, and the public should not blame Liu for his injury," Lou told the Global Times.

Five days after undergoing surgery in London on his Achilles tendon, Liu returned to Shanghai Tuesday, vowing to continue his running career.

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