Liu Xiang did not disappoint a crowd of nearly 70,000 that thronged the Guangdong Olympic Stadium on Wednesday night.
The biggest star of Chinese athletics coasted to a fluent 13.09s victory in the 110m hurdles to trigger wild celebrations among cheering fans.
With his timing which was well ahead of his forecast of around 13.20, the Chinese became the third fastest man for the season behind David Oliver of the US (12.89s) and Dayron Robles of Cuba (13.01s).
Expectedly, Shi Dongpeng, who last May beat Liu in Shanghai, took the silver, well behind the master, at 13.38s. Korean Park Taek-Yong, who took the bronze in a personal best 13.48s, came in for praise from Liu Xiang.
Liu Xiang, who said he was satisfied with the timing, threw his gold medal into the stands moments after he had thrown a bouquet.
Television ratings were expected to go through the roof while the whole of China watched its favourite son win his third Asiad gold after that tearful exit from Beijing Olympics because of an Achilles injury.
A world-class contest in men's discus throw got overshadowed amidst the hype surrounding Liu Xiang's appearance, the run and the celebrations.
Iranian Ehsan Hadadi retained his title with a throw of 67.99m. Qatari Ahmad Mohamed Dheeb upstaged another Iranian, Mohammed Samimi, for the silver with a personal best 64.56m, while the latter took the bronze with 63.46.
Vikas Gowda who had a 63.13 in the second round had to settle for the fourth place. Gowda, silver winner at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, said that he was aiming to cross 65 metres but felt his body tight and could not relax. He said that this was a world-class field.
India had cause for much cheer in the morning as two of its 400-metre hurdlers made it to the final winning their heats. More importantly, A.C. Ashwini and Jauna Murmu clocked personal best timings, 56,43s and 57.17s respectively, and looked good enough to improve upon them in Thursday's final.
Ashwini, the long-striding Udupi woman, has lopped off an amazing 3.47s from her personal best in about six months. Murmu has also jumped from a 59.82 in May last. Both were, however, disappointments in the Commonwealth Games clocking 59-plus and going out in the heats.
The two were in a batch of 400m runners given extensive training in Yalta, Ukraine this past summer, perhaps the key to their success.
Joseph Abraham qualified for the men's 400m hurdles final with a time of 50.93s, the second best behind Japanese Kenji Narisako (50.15s).
Tintu Luka won her 800m heat in 2:03.85 to lead the qualifiers into Thursday's final. World 1,500m champion Maryam Yusuf Jamal of Bahrain, who has stated that her aim here was to repeat her double from the last Games, also won her heat but in a slower 2:04.54. Sinimole Paulose (2:03.83) qualified as one of the ‘best losers'.
Francis Sagayaraj (1:50.18) and Sajeesh Joseph (1:49.58) failed to make it to the men's 800m final.
In the men's 200m, Suresh Sathya won a heat in 21.02s and was fourth overall. Qatari Samuel Francis looked to have aggravated his right hamstring problem as he neared the finish, though he made it through a ‘lucky loser' slot.
Bhartender Singh (3171 points), lying third after four events in decathlon, had his hopes dashed by a hamstring injury as he started off in the 400m, clutched his thigh and fell on the track in pain. He had to be carried off.
P.J. Vinod, who was lying seventh with 3791, also suffered a black-out after the 400m, and was moved to the medical room. Dmitriy Karpov of Kazakhstan led the field at the half-way stage with 4245 points.
Satti Geetha (24.08s) qualified for the 200m final as a ‘fastest loser” and had the seventh best time among eight qualifiers. Tiana Mary Thomas (24.62s) did not make it
Maha Singh (7.44m) was seventh and Ankit Sharma (7.19m) was ninth in the long jump competition which was won by Korean Kim Deok-Hyeon at 8.11m.
The results: Men: 110m hurdles: 1. Li Xiang (Chn) 13.09s, 2. Shi Dongpeng (Chn) 13.38, 3. Park Taek-Yong (Kor) 13.48. Long jump: 1. Kim Deok-Hyeon (Kor) 8.11m, 2. Su Xiongfeng (Chn) 8.05, 3. Hussein Taher Al-Sabee (KSA) 7.96; 7. Maha Singh (Ind) 7.44, 9. Ankit Sharma (Ind) 7.19. Discus: 1. Ehsan Hadadi (Iri) 67.99m, 2. Ahmad Mohamed (Qat) 64.56, 3. Mohammad Samimi (Iri) 63.46; 4. Vikas Gowda (Ind) 63.13.
Women: Pole vault: 1. Li Caixia (Chn) 4.30, 2. Li Ling (Chn) 4.30, 3. Tomomi Abiko (Jpn) 4.15.
Thursday's finals: Men's 50km walk, 800m, 400m hurdles, decathlon; Women's 100m hurdles, triple jump, 800m, 200m, javelin, 400m hurdles.
Keywords: Asian Games 2010