World record holder Liu Xiang of China coasted to victory in the 110m hurdles yesterday at the Osaka Grand Prix, his first outdoor race of the season.
Running in rainy and cold conditions at Nagai Stadium, reigning Olympic gold medalist and world champion Liu clocked a time of 13.19 seconds to finish well ahead of compatriot Shi Dongpeng, who had a time of 13.63.
It was Liu’s fifth straight win at the Osaka event.
“Given the rain and the cold, I’m satisfied with the result,” Liu said through an interpreter. “I’ve always enjoyed running here and it’s good to start the season off with a win.”
Liu is China’s best hope for athletics gold this summer at the Beijing Olympics.
After Osaka, Liu is set compete in two more races this month — the Olympic test event in Beijing on May 22 and the Reebok Grand Prix in the US on May 31.
Liu took control of yesterday’s race after the second hurdle. His main rivals — Cuba’s Dayron Robles and Americans Alan Johnson and Terrence Trammell — did not take part.
American David Oliver clocked a winning time of 12.95 on Friday night in Doha, 0.07 off Liu’s world record and the eighth-best time in history.
When asked about Oliver’s performance, Liu had nothing but praise for the American.
“It’s good that he was able to produce such a good result,” Liu said. “To break 13 seconds is not an issue with me and I can do it if the conditions are right. For every athlete, the issue is to do your best at high-profile events.”
Liu said after yesterday’s race that avoiding injury in the wet conditions was key.
“The most important thing is not to get injured,” he said. “I was able to relax and run a good race.”
Liu has said he’s in better condition physically than he was four years ago in Athens, where he equaled the then world record of 12:91 seconds to win gold.
Liu said he will spend the two months after the Reebok Grand Prix event training in Beijing.
Elsewhere, world champion Brad Walker of the US won the pole vault with a leap of 5.40m while compatriot Russ Buller was second with 5.30m.
“In an Olympic year you want to jump as high as possible to give yourself confidence,” Walker said. “But with the conditions today I decided it was best not to push things.”
American Carmelita Jeter won the women’s 100 with a time of 11.30 while China’s Hu Kai took the men’s 100 in 10.54.