Xie faces major hurdles as Liu bids adieu

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 China bids a fond farewell to one of its most celebrated athletes yesterday as Liu Xiang takes a bow in front of 40,000 fans in his home city of Shanghai after a spectacular Diamond League meeting.

Shanghai hurdler Xie Wenjun needs major improvements if he wants to take over the mantle from Liu Xiang as China's track and field icon. The 24-year-old could only manage a sixth-placed finish — clocking 13.36 seconds — in the men's 110-meter hurdles at the 2015 Diamond League last night.

American hurdler David Oliver won the race in 13.17 seconds, the last discipline to be staged at Shanghai Stadium. Orlando Ortega of Cuba (13.19) won the silver, with the bronze medal going to Oliver's compatriot Aries Merritt (13.25).

Despite knocking down three of the first five hurdles, Oliver had a strong start in the race, leading all the way to achieve a season's-best time.

Liu, watching the race from the VIP stands, later attended a retirement farewell ceremony organized for him by the Chinese Athletic Association. The 31-year-old ended his 19-year career last month through an online announcement, and had made very few public appearances since.

Along with more than 10,000 spectators, Liu watched a short film which reviewed all the memorable moments of his career at the start of the ceremony through the big screen at the stadium.

The Shanghai native received the "Special Achievement Award" issued by the CAA, the first such award in the association's history. He took 30 seconds to hold back his tears before giving a farewell speech.

"I feel it a great honor to receive such an award from the association. Shanghai is my home, the place where my track dreams began. This is a chance for me to say goodbye. I have been trying to show my best side during my career. Hurdling is my beloved career and I still feel excited when I walk on to the tracks.

"I want to assure everybody that I have never held back when facing all the difficulties and challenges in my professional career. The spirit will accompany me for the rest of my life.

"I believe more Chinese track and field talents will emerge soon. I wish China's track and field a bright future!"

Liu then ran around the track to greet the spectators along with all the men's hurdlers who raced last night, receiving applause from fans, some in tears. The local star ended the emotional night with four deep bows towards the stands.

In other competitions yesterday, Olympic 400 champion Kirani James of Grenada overcame his great American rival LaShawn Merritt and the rest of the field, creating a big advantage coming into the last 100 meters and clinching the gold in 44.66 seconds.

The men's 200 gold went to Panama's Alonso Edward, who beat three Jamaicans Julian Forte, Nickel Ashmeade and Rasheed Dwyer for the title.

Silas Kiplagat of Kenya won the men's 1,500 and his compatriot Jairus Kipchoge Birech the 3,000 steeplechase.

Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar took the men's high jump, with Russian Aleksandr Menkov winning the long jump and Poland's Piotr Malachowski claiming the discus throw gold.

In the women's section, Olympic and world champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica could only manage fifth in the 100m race won by Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor in 10.98, her season's best. American Tori Bowie and Trinidadian Michelle-Lee Ahye took silver and bronze, respectively.

"I just didn't execute the first part of the race well but, of course, it's not the end of the world," Fraser-Pryce, clocking 11.25 seconds, said in a post-race interview. "It's not the first time I lost."

Asian champion Gong Lijiao delighted the home fans by winning the opening event, the shot put, with a 20.35-meter winning effort, the best in the world this year.

Lu Huihui also brought home a gold in the javelin throw for China.

Jamaican Kaliese Spencer won the 400 hurdles. The 800 and 5,000 titles went to Eunice Jepkoech Sum of Kenya and Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia, respectively. Nikoleta Kiriakopoulou of Greece became the pole vault champion while Colombian Caterine Ibargueen soared to victory in the triple jump.

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