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Rediff.com  » Sports » PHOTOS: Liu out of Olympics in heats again

PHOTOS: Liu out of Olympics in heats again

Last updated on: August 7, 2012 17:03 IST

PHOTOS: Liu out of Olympics in heats again

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Former champion Liu Xiang left the Olympics Games in the first heat of the 110-meter hurdles for the second time in a row, clutching his right Achilles after he crashed into the first obstacle.

-London Olympics 2012 - Complete coverage

Liu won in 2004 at Athens to become the first Chinese man to claim an Olympic track and field gold medal, but shocked the home crowd in Beijing four years later when he had to withdraw in his heat without clearing a hurdle because of a right foot problem which later required surgery.

This time, his coach had already expressed concern that Liu was less than fully fit, but still he had been expected to challenge for gold again in London.


Image: China's Liu Xiang, second left, falls as Hungary's Balazs Baji, Poland's Artur Noga and Barbados' Shane Brathwaite react during a men's 110-meter hurdles heat
Photographs: Daniel Ochoa De Olza/AP Photo

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'It was just a tragedy'

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"It was just terrible for that to happen to one of the best hurdlers of all time. It was just a tragedy," American favorite Aries Merritt said.

Liu had his right Achilles protected with yellow tape when he came into the stadium. While other runners flew over hurdles for practice, he jogged up to the first hurdle and raised his eyebrows.

He produced a wan smile when the stadium speakers announced his name to the cheering. He was talking to himself as he started to settle in the blocks.


Image: Liu Xiang, right, fails to clear a hurdle
Photographs: Lee Jin-man/AP Photo

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History has just repeated itself

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Then from the starting gun, it all went wrong for one of the biggest stars in. With his lead leg, he crashed into the first hurdle and tumbled over. He looked up and held his right leg, realizing history has just repeated itself.

Instead of being wheeled off, he decided to hop on one leg along the track and went over to kiss the last hurdle in his lane 4. When he came to the finish line, Balazs Baji of Hungary was awaiting him and raised the arm of the former Olympic champion.

Britain's Andrew Turner and Spain's Jackson Quinonez then led him off to a waiting wheelchair.


Image: China's Liu Xiang kisses a hurdle as he hops to the finish line after he failed to clear a hurdle and injured himself
Photographs: Lee Jin-man/AP Photo

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'That's two Olympics in a row he's limped off with an Achilles problem'

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"That's two Olympics in a row he's limped off with an Achilles problem -- I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy," Turner said.

Liu still is still one of the biggest sports stars in China and had a resurgence in form over the past two years, which made him a legitimate gold medal contender again.

The 110 hurdles was always going to be one of the signature races of the Olympics with defending champion Dayron Robles of Cuba, world champion Jason Richardson and Merritt, the fastest man this year.


Image: China's Liu Xiang
Photographs: Lee Jin-man/AP Photo

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Merritt was the top qualifier

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Merritt was the top qualifier for Wednesday's semifinals with 13.07. Robles and Richardson also won their heat.

Injuries took their toll on the morning program.

In the triple jump, the home crowd at the packed 80,000 Olympic Stadium had high hopes for Phillips Idowu, the former World champion and runner-up at the Beijing Olympics.

However, there were fears he had a nerve problem in his back, and he produced only the eighth best jump in the first qualifying group, leaving him out of Thursday's final.


Image: China's Liu Xiang hops off the track
Photographs: Anja Niedringhaus/AP Photo

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