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Liu Xiang to make comeback at Grand Prix
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China's former Olympic champion Liu Xiang will run his first race since withdrawing from the Beijing Olympics at next weekend's Shanghai Golden Grand Prix, organizers said on Saturday.

Liu Xiang, China's 110m-hurdle world champion and Olympic gold medal winner clears a hurdle during a training session in Shanghai, east China, on June 30, 2009. [Xinhua]

The 26-year-old Liu, also the 2007 world champion in men's 110 meters hurdles, just returned to training in July after a surgery on his right Achilles tendon last December.

"After communicating with the Chinese Athletic Association, the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix committee has officially announced that Liu Xiang will compete at the SHGGP this year," organizers said in a statement on the official website (www.shggp.com).

The statement added, "After careful inspection, the doctor has confirmed that Liu's foot injury has healed enough for him to compete in the race."

Organizers also asked the fans do not expect too much from Liu, who previously held the world record of 12.88 seconds.

"The committee has appealed to Liu's fans to give their encouragement but not focus too much on the final result."

Liu and coach Sun Haiping both hope that events such as the SHGGP, which will be held on Sept. 20, will help Liu improve as he prepares for the Asian Athletics Championships in November and the East Asian Games in December.

Liu was reported earlier to run a time of 13.70 seconds against the wind on Thursday.

"The run was a practical exam of Liu's training and recovery, which has made him more confident to return to the track," China's athletics head coach Feng Shuyong said.

But critics said that Liu will not be able to get his popularity back after his shock withdrawal in the Beijing Olympics.

Liu was nicknamed by netizens "No Running Liu" for pulling up lame in a qualifying heat in the Olympics. He was even linked to Fan Meizhong, a school teacher from a school in Dujiangyan, near the epicentre of the the disastrous Sichuan earthquake in southeast China. Fan ran away himself and left his students behind. He was fired and fiercely slashed across the nation and was nicknamed "Running Fan."

Liu is the first and only men's track and field Olympic champion of China. This should have been enough for him in his life without the Beijing Olympics.

Many Chinese have expressed sympathy that Liu was under excessive pressure to come back from his injury in time for the Olympics. But others argued that he should be blamed not because of his defeat, but because of the way he had behaved.

"The Beijing Olympics was like a war for the Chinese fans. They have expected Liu to fight and win. But he came to the battlefield and did not fire a shot. He raised his hands high and surrendered," a professor at the Beijing Normal University commented on condition of anonymity.

Many believed that it will be very difficult for him to win again in major international competitions. Chinese sporting officials have publicly expressed concerns that his best times are behind him. Liu himself has said another injury would likely mean the end of his career.

(Xinhua News Agency September 13, 2009)

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