Liu Xiang – China’s great hurdling hope – shocked the world as he limped off the track after a false start.
The aftershocks of the Olympic gold medallist’s exit in the 110m hurdles have been somewhat muffled by the avalanche of gold medals brought in by his compatriots, but there are still millions (if not billions) who are/were shocked/baffled/angry at his exit. But can you imagine what it must have felt like being in his spiked sprinting shoes with the hopes of billions on your shoulders ?
The fact remains – he didn’t finish the race. Sponsors, coaches, teammates, and fellow countrymen were let down. The hero became a zero.
Ultimately, it was his decision not to run, and he bravely called it. It was probably harder to walk away than to run the race.
All the media blitz and marketing deals that comes with being a track star can sometimes cloud your judgment. The pressure of performing can push one beyond the brink.
But in a show of support for Liu Xiang, one of his sponsors put up full-page ads of him with the text ‘Love the glory. Love the pain. Love sport even when it breaks your heart.’
In the long run, Liu’s decision to hobble away could well have allowed him to run another day. The man himself said that if he had finished the race, he would have risked severe damage to his tendon.
Yes, the Olympics is the pinnacle of sporting achievement, but Liu has nothing to prove after shocking the world with a gold in Athens, and his journey in sport should not end on this low. His life goes on, he has to pick himself up.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Liu didn’t sound evasive, nor give any excuses for his no-show.
He also said that he would rise again.
“”I know I have the ability, once my foot recovered (sic),” said Liu.
The world awaits.