Chinese 110m hurdle star Liu Xiang left for China on Saturday after a successful foot surgery and three months' rehabilitation in the United States.
The 25-year-old Athens Olympic and world champion had a quite successful foot surgery in December last year at the Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center in Houston, and had four calcium deposits removed from his right Achilles tendon.
"His recovery is even better than what we expected. Doctors believe that after three months' rehabilitation and training, he actually has achieved the level of recovery that generally needs four months to happen," Feng Shuyong, vice-president of the Chinese Athletics Association, told Xinhua on Friday at the track and field of Rice University, where Liu was having his last training on track in the United States.
Feng said Liu will return to Shanghai, his hometown, for training on track and rehabilitation. Chinese doctors will take over the rehabilitation and his coach Sun Haiping be in charge of his training programs. Liu may resume normal training on track in May.
"Liu Xiang and all of us feel grateful for people here who help and support us, including the U.S. doctors, China's consulate general in Houston, the Rice University which offers us their training arena for free, and many other overseas Chinese," Feng said.
American surgeon Tom Clanton, who performed Liu's surgery, together with Liu's rehabilitation therapist, had a thorough examination on Liu's Archilles tendon on Thursday to make sure he is suitable for returning home. The results are encouraging, doctors said.
The scar from the operation has become smaller and softer. Ultrasonic and other tests showed that the movements of Liu's right ankle are close to normal and muscle strength of his right foot is basically the same as left foot, they said.
The problem now is that the surgery caused the loss of part of Liu's muscle and tendon on his injured foot. Thought new muscle and tendon grow but the the new one mainly contains type II collagen instead of type I, which is responsible for muscle's strength and flexibility.
It will take some time for type I collagen to grow and replace type II collagen on Liu's right foot, and that's why he needs to gradually increase intensity of his rehabilitation and training before resuming normal training, Feng said.
Doctors warned that Liu should be cautious with his injured foot and not be in a hurry to return to normal training. But they also agreed that in the next phrase, rehabilitation can be gradually reduced and training be increased for Liu.
Doctor Clanton said earlier that Liu's "prognosis for running in the future is quite good" . Feng also said there are cases that top athletes returned to their peak after a foot surgery like Liu's.
Saying Liu's future plans for training and competition will depend on how he recovers, Feng said the Chinese idol "has worked so hard for his recovery and will also try his best to come back to peak."
The foot injury forced defending champion Liu to withdraw from the 2008 Beijing Olympics after he limped out the Bird's Nest national stadium in the first heat, causing much sensation among hopeful home fans.
(Xinhua News Agency March 8, 2009)