Liu Xiang crashes out of men's 110m hurdles

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China's famous hurdler Liu Xiang crashed at the first barrier in the 110m hurdles heats. [Xinhua]

Chinese hurdles star Liu Xiang suffered first-round exit from the Olympics for the second straight time on Tuesday, but his fellow countrymen made history by beating their previous best medal tally at any Games held outside China.

Four years ago after an Achilles injury denied Liu the chance of defending his Olympic 110m hurdles title in Beijing, tragedy struck again in London as the 2004 champion crashed into the first obstacle and fell to the track in his opening heat.

Liu, a national hero and sports icon in China, limped determinedly down the track toward the finish line and kissed the last hurdle, earning a rousing ovation from the 80,000 crowd at the Olympic stadium before Britain's Andy Turner, the heat winner, helped him away.

"It must be hard for that to happen for the second time in a row. He's a great athlete," said Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, adding that Liu Xiang is a "true champion".

"What Liu Xiang did today reflected the true Olympic spirits," said Chinese athletics team leader Feng Shuyong. "To win is not so important, participation is what matters."

Feng said Liu probably ruptured his Achilles tendon while taking off, and intensive training in the lead-up to the Games should be the major cause of the recurrence of the injury he suffered four years ago.

"We all know that at the moment of taking off the tendon sustains great pressure," said Feng. "Initial diagnosis from the medical staff revealed that he had a broken Achilles tendon."

Hours after Liu Xiang's bitter elimination, China celebrated its best gold medal tally in any Olympics held outside home soil with three more victories in gymnastics and table tennis.

By the end of Day 11, the Chinese lifted their total to 34 gold against the United States' 30 as they moved closer to defend their glory of ending the Olympics at the top of the medal table.

China won its first ever Olympic gold medal among its tally of 15 in the 1984 Los Angeles Games and slumped to five golds in Seoul in 1988. In the following Games held in Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney and Athens, China earned 16, 16, 28 and 32 golds respectively.

The Chinese topped the gold tally with 51 when Beijing hosted the Games four years ago, beating the United States, which had 36 golds, into second place.

Their gymnasts have been a major contributor as Deng Linlin won the gold on balance beam, upstaging teammate and reigning world champion Sui Lu shortly after Feng Zhe took gold on parallel bars on Tuesday.

It gave China four of the 14 gold on offer in gymnastics, a far cry from their haul of nine in 2008.

The Chinese table tennis trio of Ding Ning, Li Xiaoxia and Guo Yue proved a class above Japan, winning the women's team final 3-0 for their third gold in three events.

China could repeat the clean sweep which they achieved in 2008 if its men beat South Korea in the men's team final on Wednesday.

However, the Chinese divers' bid to win all eight diving events was spoiled when Russia's Ilya Zakharov outperformed defending champion He Chong and Qin Kai to win the men's 3-meter springboard title.

Zakharov totaled 555.90 points in the six-round final, while Qin settled for silver at 541.75. He earned the bronze at 524.15.

"I didn't think about the competition at all. I took each dive as a separate instance. I didn't know about my positioning until after the fifth dive," said Zakharov.

Separated by just 1.25 points, it was down to the last round that decided the winner between Zakharov and Qin.

Qin scored 89.10 points for his last dive, before Zakharov executed a much tougher dive for 104.50 points.

"We have never been beaten in this event since 2006. I'm very sad about that," said Qin, who broke down in tears after the competition.

China had won four synchronized events in diving here.

Elsewhere, there was also disappointment for the Chinese.

China's dreams of a medal in volleyball were crushed when their women's team lost to Japan in a five-set thriller in the quarter-finals.

Japan saved two match points in the fifth set to win 28-26, 23-25, 25-23, 23-25, 18-16 and make it to the last four for the first time since 1988.

"We had a lot of pressure. We really wanted to win, so it caused a lot of problems," said China head coach Yue Juemin.

Chinese women's team has won the gold three times since the sport was introduced to the Olympics in 1964. They won the bronze four years ago in Beijing.

Meanwhile, Britain also surpassed its best ever Games performance following continued success in the Velodrome.

The hosts stay in third place in the medals table with 21 gold, two more than their 2008 total.

In the most anticipated race on Tuesday night, Sally Pearson of Australia set a new Olympic record of 12.35 seconds to win the women's 100m final in wet conditions.

Pearson, the silver medalist four years ago, finished two-hundredths of a second ahead of defending champion Dawn Harper, who took silver, while Kellie Wells claimed bronze.

Algeria's Taoufik Makhloufi produced a stunning last 300 meters to be proclaimed Olympic 1,500m champion, and the men's high jump final was won by Russia's Ivan Ukhov who cleared heights of 2.33, 2.36 and 2.38 at all first attempt.

In soccer, Brazil is on the verge of winning an elusive Olympic gold after beating South Korea 3-0. It will face Mexico at Wembley on Saturday in the final. Mexico reached the gold medal match after beating Japan 3-1.

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