HONG KONG: Former Olympic and world champion Liu Xiang, easily won gold in the 110-meter hurdles at the East Asian Games on Friday, saying afterward he wants to get back under 13 seconds but the world record may be a long shot.
In his last race of the year in Hong Kong, Liu won in 13.66 seconds - his worst time since his comeback from a career-threatening foot injury, but he had the luxury of slowing as he approached the finish line, comfortably beating the field.
The 26-year-old won gold at the Athens Olympics in 2004, then broke the world record in 2006, but shocked China by walking away from his first heat at the Beijing Olympics last year with a foot injury. Having launched his comeback in September after surgery to repair his right Achilles’ tendon, all eyes are on whether he can recapture his old form.
Liu was happy with his performance and holds ambitions of getting under 13 seconds, although breaking the world record may be a tall order. Liu set a world record of 12.88 seconds in 2006. Cuba’s Dayron Robles took 0.01 seconds off his mark in 2008.
“Breaking the world record is very, very difficult ... Improving by just 0.01 seconds is a very, very difficult thing to do. So I haven’t even thought about breaking the world record. If I think about it, it puts a lot of pressure on me,” Liu said.
“But I’m still confident that I can run under 13 seconds. I don’t necessarily have to break the world record. I’m now training with the goal of running under 13 seconds.”
Liu set a time of 13.15 in his first comeback race in Shanghai in September, then 13.34 at China’s National Games the following month, and 13.50 at the Asian Athletic Championship last month.
“After coming back at the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix in September, I’ve felt like I could find my old feeling again. So I’ve been working hard. I can’t say how fast I can run, but I’m confident I can approach my old standard,” Liu said.
One of China’s biggest sports stars, Liu is the biggest attraction at the usually low-profile East Asian Games. About 100 reporters attended his post-race press conference.
The partisan crowd at Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground in suburban Hong Kong cheered enthusiastically when Liu entered the stadium, warming up in a white T-shirt printed with the Chinese character for “xiang,” which translates to flight.
Elsewhere, Beijing Olympics badminton men’s singles champion Lin Dan won in straight sets as China beat South Korea 3-1 in the men’s team final.
China won three of the first six golds in rowing, Japan clinched two and Hong Kong had one.