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Liu adopts ambassadorial role as surgery looms
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Liu Xiang will attend the IAAF World Athletics Gala at the end of this month in an informal ambassadorial role despite not being in the running for an award.

China's world champion hurdler would have been a contender for athlete of the year had he managed to defend his Olympic gold medal at the 110m hurdles in August, before a severe tendon injury forced him to withdraw during the preliminary heats.

Instead of wallowing in self-pity, Liu, who is mulling surgery to fix the Achilles' tendon on his left foot, said he has responsibilities to live up as the de facto face of Chinese athletics.

"The invitation means the recognition and respect of the IAAF and as a member of the IAAF family, we should shoulder this responsibility," Liu was quoted as saying by Goal China. "(My attendance) will also benefit Chinese athletics."

The International Association of Athletics Federation's 2008 World Athletics Gala will take place in Monaco on Nov 23.

Following a poll of the IAAF Family and Internet fans, the organization selected three male and three female finalists to compete for the honor of being named World Athlete of the Year. They include Olympic triple gold medalist sprinter Usain Bolt of Jamaica, men's 110m hurdles world record holder Dayron Robles of Cuba and pole vault queen Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia.

Liu won the IAAF's Performance of the Year award in 2006 but he may have to go under knife if he wants to capture any more such esteemed titles.

Recently returned from a trip to the United States to consult with doctors there, Liu and his coach have issued comments suggesting that surgery is likely to follow in the wake of the awards ceremony.

"The possibility of surgery is 90 percent," said coach Sun Haiping. "The three calcifications between his bone and tendon cannot be removed in any other way."

Liu, who owned the world record in the 110m before Cuba's Robles stripped him of it just prior to the 2008 Olympics, is expected to have the operation in the US.

The equipment and technology (there) is very advanced and the recovery process is a lot safer," said Sun, adding that he is still discussing the matter with experts in Beijing and Liu's hometown of Shanghai.

Sun said Liu could return to training as early as June.

"If everything goes well, Liu could attend the World Championships in Berlin next August, although it is hard to predict any good results," he said. "Our final goal is the 2012 London Games."

(China Daily November 18, 2008)

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