China's 110m-hurdler Liu Xiang (L) sprints towards the finishing line next to Terrence Trammell of the United States at the 2009 Shanghai Golden Grand Prix in Shanghai, China, on Sept. 20, 2009. Liu made a comeback on Sunday after his Olympic withdrawal, finishing second in 13.15 seconds. Trammell, who also clocked 13.15 seconds but beat Liu at photo finish, took the gold medal. [Xinhua/Fan Jun]
Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang, former Olympic and world champion, returned to competition in style by finishing second at the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix on Sunday.
Liu's much-anticipated return after 13 months out injured was cheered by a boisterous crowd of 25,000 at the Shanghai Stadium. He fought back from behind to cross the finish line shoulder by shoulder with arch rival Terrence Trammell of American, silver medalist in the Berlin world championships.
China's 110m-hurdle star Liu Xiang competes during the 110m-hurdle match at the 2009 Shanghai Golden Grand Prix in Shanghai, China, on Sept. 20, 2009. [Xinhua/Fan Jun]
The photo finish showed that Trammell, silver medalist at two Olympic Games and three world championships, was the winner in a similar time of 13.15 seconds.
"I want to thank my rivals, thank my coach and thank everybody for your support," said Liu soon after the race.
"I had not expected to run so fast," said Liu, who clocked 13.70 seconds in a training session last week. "It's just beyond my imagination."
China's 110m-hurdle star Liu Xiang reacts after crossing the finishing line during the 110m-hurdle competition at the 2009 Shanghai Golden Grand Prix in Shanghai, China, on Sep. 20, 2009.[Xinhua/Fan Jun]
"This competition has boosted my confidence and I am sure to improve on this performance. It showed that I am still able to come out on the track and find my former self," the 26-year-old said.
Liu trailed Trammell by at least three meters after 50 meters but he managed to catch up in the final meters in front of the fans of Shanghai where he was born and brought up.
"The atmosphere was superb. I will train harder after this competition," said a beaming Liu, who was a national hero before the Beijing Olympic Games but was criticized by netizens for his shock withdrawal at the Bird's Nest.
Liu just returned to training in July after a surgery on his right Achilles tendon in the United States last December. His performance in Shanghai gave the fans hope that he has been back on winning track.
He said that his foot injury will not cause trouble.
"I don't think there will be problems for my foot," he said. "I will try to avoid injuries in future races, big or small. Now the past is past. Today I think the fans felt happy for me and also a little disappointment (for not winning the race). I am sure that I will do better in the days to come."
Organizers had asked the fans do not expect too much from Liu, who previously held the world record of 12.88 seconds but the time was certainly a surprise happiness for them and his coach Sun Haiping.
Sun said before the race that events such as the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix will just help Liu improve as he prepares for the Asian Athletics Championships in November and the East Asian Games in December.
"The time was really good," Sun said. "It's of course beyond my expectations. I told him before the race that 13.50 is good enough because it might be a little risky for his foot to run faster. I think there were three reasons. Firstly, the fans were really fantastic and secondly, the wind was assisting him. Thirdly, Trammell was really a good rival. "
Sun said that Liu's foot injury will not be a problem any longer. "He could have never run inside 13.20 if he had not recovered well enough. But I still hope he should improve gradually."
Liu's next race will be at China's 11th National Games to be held in Ji'nan, east China's Shandong Province in October.
(Xinhua News Agency September 21, 2009)