Tuesday, August 19, 2008

2008 Beijing Olympics: Liu Xiang Withdraws, Mayhem Ensues

After waking up this morning after a long Sanlitun night, I was able to catch the prelims of the Men's 110m hurdles race featuring Chinese superman, Liu Xiang. Without even knowing what's going Liu Xiang suddenly took his competition numbers off and walked out of the stadium. Everyone was in shock. How did this happen?

Although I was stunned by what happened, I wasn't necessarily surprised. Everyone already had Liu Xiang in the finals winning the gold medal. I even have tickets to the semifinals competition. However, all of those expectations can be quickly destroyed when a false start or an injury prevents the athlete from competing.

Immediately after the withdraw, a press conference was called with the Chinese Track & Field coach and Liu Xiang's personal coach. They explained that this was an Achilles tendon problem that only manifested itself recently. It had nothing to do with the previous hamstring injury or something that was hidden. He also explained that the pain had to be intolerable for Liu Xiang to withdraw – that it was his dream to compete in the Olympics ever since he saw that China was awarded the game 7 years ago in 2001. Liu Xiang was 18 (the same age as me).

What is most heartbreaking is that during his last training session the day before the opening ceremonies, it was reported online that he was running at around 12.9 seconds. After the press conference, an emotional CCTV5 reported that the actual time was around 12.8 – faster than world record time.

Liu Xiang has been the idol for so many Chinese for so long that he won't be discarded so easily. Even though he didn't compete in this Olympics and didn't win gold for his country, he will always be loved by his countrymen.
This response in already there. Within a few minutes after the press conference people already have understanding and would like to encourage him to fight back. Beijing TV's commentary show on the Olympics is taking text messages and emails from viewers. All comments have been positive and understanding. This Beijing TV show went on for the entire afternoon with the 4 hosts (2 male and 2 female) taking about this withdraw back and forth.

I was texting back and forth with a friend and she said she cried when she heard the news. In her text: "Liu Xiang let his country down, but he's the only person in the world with 1.3 billion exectations on him."
At 10pm, Liu Xiang gave an interview with CCTV apologizing to the Chinese people. He said that there was no way he could compete and that it was too much pain to bare.

At the same time, China just won its 39th gold.

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