Liu Xiang won it and history's been made.
The 21-year-old claimed the gold medal of the glamorous men's
110m hurldes before a capacity crowd of 70,000 at the Olympic
Stadium in the 28th Olympic Games in Athens Friday.
He clocked a stunning 12.91 seconds to equal the world record
set by Britain's Collin Jackson in 1993.
Terrence Trammell of the United States, silver medalist at both
the Sydney Olympics and last year's world championships, won the
silver in 13.18.
Defending champion Anier Garcia of Cuba took the bronze in 13.
It is the first gold Chinese men's athlete has ever won from the
track and field in the Olympics history.
China has won over 100 gold medals from the summer Olympic Games
since 1984 but their male athletes only got one medal from
Olympics' most popular sport. That was high jumper Zhu Jianhua's
bronze in the 1984 Los Angeles Games.
The Shanghai native, with his father a truck driver and mother
an out-of-work housewife, loved sports when he was very little.
"He kept running and jumping everyday and never sat there
quietly," his mother Ji Fenhua recalled.
Liu was selected to the Junior Sports School of Putuo District
of Shanghai to practice jumping as a fourth grader in the primary
school. But after a bone test showing that he will not be able to
become a tall man, Liu was asked to give up sports one year later,
although he had won the national champion at that level.
His parents also wanted him to study computer engineering or
some other profession befitting his middle-class Shanghai
upbringing, but Liu decided to go on.
"I told my mother that I would compete in the Olympics in the
future," Liu said.
The year of 1998 was a turning point for Liu's career, when he
attracted coach Sun Haiping's attention as a 15-year-old
Sun was a well known hurdle coach who had nurtured Asian
champion Chen Yanhao and he believed a star was born at the first
sight of Liu. He visited Liu's parents several times and finally
persuaded them to let Liu transfer to the 110m hurdles.
After only three years, Liu launched his career in style in the
IAAF Grand Prix in Lausanne in 2001 by breaking the world youth and
Asian record with a time of 13.12.
And in the next two years leading to the Olympic Games, he has
won titles at the Asian championships, the World University Games
and the Asian Games.
But the first warning he sent to the world was his bronze-
winning feat at the world indoor championships in Birmingham,
England, last year.
He went on to capture the bronze in the world outdoor
championships in Paris to record a surprise season in 2003.
In 2004, Liu came back stronger and more confident. He won the
silver in the world indoor championships in Budapest in March.
Two months later, he proved the winner in a race against
American great Allen Johnson in the IAAF Grand Prix in Osaka,
Japan, where he clocked a new Asian record and world's season best
time of 13.06 seconds.
He went on to win two Johnson-absent races in Lille, France, on
June 26 and Zagreb, Croatia, three days later. He put up an
exciting show at the Golden Gala meet in Rome on July 3, when he
and Johnson clocked an identical time of 13.11. Race officials had
to examine a photo finish to declare Johnson the winner.
Liu did a better job of clearing the hurdles than Johnson, but
Johnson's stronger start ended up making the difference.
The race boosted Liu 's optimism for the Olympics, although
Johnson bettered his season best time by 0.01 second in Lausanne,
Switzerland, on July 6.
The world has put the Olympics a Johsnon-Liu duel but
surprisingly Johnson crashed out of the Games after falling at the
ninth hurdle at round 2.
Johnson's early exit paved the way for Liu's win. He finally
took the gold and put a Chinese man's name on the record book.
(Xinhua News Agency August 28, 2004)