Liu Xiang celebrates after winning gold in the men's 110m hurdles Wednesday. The superstar stormed to his third successive Asiad gold to the delight of his fans. Photo: AFP
Hurdler Liu Xiang successfully completed a hat trick of Asian Games titles in Guangzhou Wednesday, bagging China's 172nd gold medal in the 110-meter hurdles.
November 24, 2010, Guangzhou - China's media declared "flying man" Liu Xiang (Chinese:刘翔) had returned to greatness after winning his third Asian Games 110 metre hurdles title following years of injury.
The former world record holder, hitting the track at only his second event in a year, extended his lead over the last four hurdles to snatch the men's 110m hurdles gold medal in his season best 13.09 seconds.
His Chinese teammate and Athletes' village roommate Shi Dongpeng took silver in 13.38.
Carrying a nation's expectations, Liu limped off two years ago with an Achilles injury before even starting his first heat at the Beijing Games, leaving the whole Bird's Nest stadium in stunned silence.
Liu's only other impressive result after comeback was at a September 2009 meet in Shanghai where he timed 13.15 seconds.
"I am very happy to win the Asian Games title the third time," said the 27-year-old former Olympic and world champion after Wednesday's gold-winning final. "I didn't expect I could race in 13.09."
Pictures of him crossing the line on Wednesday evening in 13.09 seconds were plastered over all major dailies and websites, while television stations replayed the event over and over.
"Former Olympic and world champion Liu Xiang remains the single most important attraction, not just on the Asian Games track, but for Chinese athletics," the official Xinhua news agency said.
The victory by China's first Olympic track gold medallist finally put to bed the shockwaves caused by his calamitous outing at the 2008 Beijing Games, when he limped out of his qualifying heat with an ankle injury.
That nagging problem, subsequent surgery and rehabilitation came under much scrutiny in China before the multi-millionaire put things right at the Aoti Main Stadium.
The China Daily, under a headline screaming 'Liu-King Good', said: "Comeback kid Liu slays his demon."
"I am gratified to see Liu Xiang get through this period of recovery and through his own efforts return once again to the world elite in the 110m hurdles," added Cai Zhenhua, vice minister of sport, on the Games' website.
China Central Television said: "Liu Xiang has returned to peak form, Liu Xiang has proven himself again, the king has really returned."
Many reports also carried Liu's remarks that his complete return to form would be when he again stepped onto the Olympic podium or took back the world record he once held.
Meanwhile Liu's hometown paper, the Eastern Sports Daily in Shanghai, reported that the pressure on Liu had been so great that coach Sun Haiping refused to watch the race in person, and instead viewed it on television.
"Everyone wanted to see him rise to a new peak, including the (state) track and field centre who wanted him to run faster sooner and did not want him to fail to live up to what the Chinese peopleexpected of him," Sun said.
"I didn't watch the race because I did not want to give him any more pressure."