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Yao's foot puts Liu's trainers on their toes
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The recent injury of China's NBA star Yao Ming has raised the concerns of officials from all the other Chinese national teams, especially for Liu Xiang, one of China's biggest hopes for the Beijing Olympic Games.

Feng Shuyong (L), head coach of China's national athletics team and Sun Haiping, coach of Olympic and world 110m hurdles champion Liu Xiang are seen at a press conference, which briefs the team's winter training work and announces that the team will compete at the World Indoor Championships in Valencia, Spain in March in Beijing February 28, 2008.

Senior athletics officials said yesterday that efficient measures have been taken to secure the safety of the star hurdler.

"All competitive sports have the risk of injury and the Chinese athletics team has always paid much attention to that and taken a series of measurements to reduce the possibilities of injures," said Feng Shuyong, head coach of China's national athletics team.

"At present, there are more than 30 doctors working for the whole team, especially those key athletes like Liu, who has two doctors."

Those doctors and coaches, Feng said, supervise the entire process of athletes' warm-ups and cool downs before and after training sessions, which, when ignored, can result in injury.

"Yao's injury was caused by long-time fatigue. The same problems can occur in track and field due to over-training or improper arrangement of the practices," Feng said. "We will try to give a proper workload to the athletes and do the best we can to avoid any injury."

With those safeguards in place, Liu is now under intensive winter training in Beijing. According to his coach Sun Haiping, the world 110m champion and Olympic gold medalist has enjoyed his "best ever" winter training regime and is eager for competitions.

"Everything is going smoothly and as scheduled," Sun said. "Since the winter training, we put 60 percent attention on the preparation for outdoor competitions, mainly the Olympic Games, and 40 percent on the upcoming world indoor championships.

"We did not fully concentrate on the indoor session until last week, but Liu is in very good form right now."

The 24-year-old world record holder, whose personal best indoor time is 7.42 seconds, will return to competition at the World Indoor Championships in Valencia, Spain, next week, where he will meet Dayron Robles of Cuba, his strongest opponent at the moment.

"Robles did very well in this indoor season and he also said that he would break the world record, so he is Liu's strongest opponent at this time," Sun said. "We hope Liu will improve his personal best in the indoor worlds, which is possible."

After returning from Spain, Liu will search for a training base with similar weather to Beijing and a track like the one at the "Bird's Nest" National Stadium, the athletics venue for the Beijing Games.

"We do not have a home advantage in being able to train in the Bird's Nest ahead of others," Sun said. "The only chance for us will be the athletics test event in May this year. Based on Liu's training condition right now, I'm fully confident with his outdoor performance this year."

Including Liu, an 11-member Chinese team will be in Spain on March 1 to compete in eight events at the indoor Worlds.

"We will use the opportunity to let those athletes compete with world's best to practice their competing capability and psychology," Feng said.

(China Daily February 29, 2008)

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