China was in shock yesterday as athletics hero Liu Xiang crashed out of the Olympic 110m hurdles with a sense of nightmare deja vu of the 2008 Beijing Games when he was forced to withdraw.
Even state television sports commentator Yang Jian could not hold back his tears as he reported the news to a stunned nation. His sobs were heard live during the CCTV broadcast of Liu’s elimination.
Liu, the former world-record holder and winner of the 2004 Olympic crown, ploughed into the first hurdle and crashed to the ground to end his London dreams.
The Internet was instantly flooded with comments on the national hero’s performance, with Liu nicknamed “Liu Shuaishuai” (Liu fell-fell) on Sina Weibo, a microblogging site.
“I never imagined that you would say goodbye in this way to your third Olympiad,” one commentator using the name Maymaypmp said in a microblog posted on Sina Weibo.
Liu — who has been troubled by back and foot problems in the past month — was helped off the track and then taken away from the arena in a wheelchair and then to the medical center.
“A single injury to a man causes suffering to a population of 1.3 billion people,” another user posting as AAAAA said.
“How cruel competitive sports are. Liu Xiang is getting old,” said Kouyamin.
However, others were more sympathetic to their fallen idol.
“Liu Xiang you are still our hero,” SowahFong posted.
Liu’s dream of winning gold in front of his home crowd at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 ended in one of the great Olympic anti-climaxes as he turned up for his heat, but failed to clear a hurdle, clearly hindered by an Achilles tendon injury.
It took more than a year for him to return to competition at the top level.