Chinese hurdler Liu aims for comeback at Asiad

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Chinese hurdler Liu aims for comeback at Asiad

GUANGZHOU, China - Athens Olympic champion hurdler Liu Xiang is aiming for his third Asian Games gold medal in Guangzhou, where he will test an injured ankle that has threatened his multi-million-dollar career.

The star 27-year-old athlete, who disappointed millions of fans by pulling up lame in a preliminary 110-meter hurdles heat at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, is looking to use the Asiad as a stepping stone back to elite competition.

Liu has been slow to recover from surgery on his Achilles tendon after the Beijing Games, only showing the explosive form that once made him the world record holder at a September 2009 meet where he posted a time of 13.15 seconds. Since then, he has been much slower, while soreness in his ankle has kept him out of major meets.

“I’ve been in good form recently .?.?. I want to win my third Asian Games and add one more gold medal for China,” Liu told reporters following a rare open training session in mid-October.

“My biggest opponent in each race is myself .?.?. [but] since I’m making improvements, my confidence will pile up as well.”

Liu put his name in the history books as the first Chinese man to win an Olympics track gold, taking the 110-meter hurdles title in Athens in 2004. He once held the world record in the event with a time of 12.88 seconds. Beloved by fans, he is hailed as a national sports hero, taking part in last year’s anniversary parade marking 60 years of Communist rule and appearing at the closing ceremony of the World Expo in his native Shanghai.

According to Chinese press reports, the hurdler recently said that 16 commercial endorsements mostly signed ahead of the Beijing Olympics has left him with 200 million yuan ($30 million) in the bank. Liu, who was recruited into a special sports school at the age of 12, still earns 1,062 yuan a month as a member of China’s national track and field team, the reports said.

Although he has often downplayed Asian meets and openly said he prefers running in global events, he stayed away from the international circuit the past summer, only appearing at an IAAF Diamond League meet in May in Shanghai. At that outing, Liu placed third, finishing in 13.40 seconds behind American David Oliver at 12.99 and teammate Shi Dongpeng at 13.39. It was the first time that long-time teammate Shi had beaten Liu in a major race. AFP

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