Cuba’s Dayron Robles may be the world record holder and Olympic champion in the 110m hurdles, but in London he will be hoping that he can at last best China super star Liu Xiang on the track.
The 25-year-old, who will be bidding to become the first man since American great Roger Kingdom in 1984 and 1988 to successfully defend his title in the event, thought he had done as much last year when he breasted the line in front in the world championship final — only for his joy to turn to misery.
He was judged to have made contact twice with Liu’s arm during the final as he began to fade and the Chinese athlete ate into his lead.
The Cuban was disqualified.
Robles, who follows in a fine tradition of Cuban high hurdlers from two-time Olympic silver medalist and former world record holder Alejandro Casanas and 2000 Olympic champion Anier Garcia, also came up short in his one meeting with Liu this year in an indoor meeting over the shorter distance of 60m.
Indeed, Robles has not had the ideal preparation for the defense of his title, having had to skip the world indoors because of a lower back injury and then missed two prestigious American outdoor meetings in Eugene, Oregon, and New York with another injury, this time to his lead leg.
However, in mid-June, Jesus Molina, the Cuban athletics federation technical director, declared the track star — who was born in Guantanamo in the far east of the island and showed he was going to be a star when he took silver in the 2004 world junior championships — fit and raring to go.
“Robles has returned to training and is completely over the small problem that affected his lead leg,” Molina said.
Despite that, nothing has been seen of Robles since.
However, his coach Santiago Antunez remains confident he will defend his title successfully, even against a resurgent Liu, who will be seeking to make up for his disappointment in Beijing, where he failed to even clear a hurdle because of injury.
“He is the Olympic champion and the fastest in the world in the event,” Antunez said. “If he loses in London in what is a really tough competition, it will be because of a problem that occurs on the day.”