China in need of "Liu Xiang II"

09:26, November 25, 2010      

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Former Olympic and world champion Liu Xiang remains the single most important attraction, not just on the Asian Games track, but for the Chinese athletics.

"I am a huge fan of his, even when he was injured, I still supported him!" said volunteer Wang Fudi after Liu breezed to win the men's 110m hurdles in 13.09 seconds, although the result is .21 seconds shy of his former world record and personal best of 12.88 four years ago.

Liu experienced ups and downs in the past two years when he failed even to start his Beijing Olympic Games defending campaign due to a foot injury and almost faded out the sight of the general public during his surgery in the United States and rehabilitation.

But once he came back, he was still the big star that no any other Chinese track and field athlete can be remotely compared to.

The capacity Guangdong Olympic Center stadium was almost empty half an hour after Liu sailed to win the heat on Monday, not even China's first-ever men's 100m victory at the Asian Games by Lao Yi later that night was exciting enough for the spectators.

"Name another big track and field star?" Xiang Mei, a photographer covering equestrian here, thought for a while. "I think it is the guy who won the 100m, Lao Yi. But I've never heard about him before."

Lao's triumph on Monday actually wrote a new leaf in Chinese athletics history in the Asian Games but seemed diminished before Liu's towering achievements as China's first men's Olympic champion in the sprint events and a former world record holder.

It looked that China is in desperate need of the second "Liu Xiang" to continue boosting the Chinese sports.

But for the Chinese athletics experts, search for the next Liu is not a guessing game but a real problem to solve.

"It is difficult to have a second athlete like Liu who has both great gift and techniques. I just try my best to train the youngsters," said Liu's coach Sun Haiping.

Agreed Zou Zhenxian, whose 17.34m long jump result in 1981 world championships remains the national record.

"Many elements can stop an athlete with great potential from growing into a huge star, whether it be improper training or psychological factors," said Zou. "I have seen many promising young athletes. Hopefully their potential can be fully brought out and becomes someone like Liu."

For Chinese athletics association deputy head Feng Shuyong, what the Chinese athletics lacks is not genius but scientific training system.

"I believed we have missed so many genius like Liu," Feng once said. "They are either simply ignored or ruined by unscientific training."

Beijing Sports University vice president Zhong Bingshu said he was confident in the future of the Chinese athletics when the athletic field noticed the problem.

"Liu's success benefited from the scientific training methods that were attached with unprecedented importance since the 2004 Athens Olympics," said Zhong. "If the experience can be applied to other athletes, I believe there will be another Liu in the forseeable future."

Source: Xinhua


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