Chinese champ Liu pulls out of Olympics

Beijing. Aug 18: China lost its main hope for a track gold on Monday when 110 meters hurdles Olympic champion and national hero Liu Xiang pulled out injured from the Games.

His painful departure in front of shocked fans at the Bird's Nest stadium took the gloss off an otherwise magnificent Games for China, who lead with 35 golds on Day Ten and look untouchable even by perennial medal-league winners the United States.They have 19 gold medals. After a false start in his first-round heat, Liu, whose face adorns billboards across China, clutched his leg and walked off the track. Fans in Beijing's Bird's Nest stadium looked stunned and volunteers were seen openly weeping.

"Liu was very, very upset," said China's athletics head coach Feng Shuyong of Liu's hamstring injury. "He would not have withdrawn unless the pain was intolerable."

Along with NBA basketball player Yao Ming, the 25-year-old Liu is China's best-known sportsman.

He became his country's first male Olympic track champion in Athens 2004 and was China's best chance for an athletics gold in Beijing though he faced a stiff rival in Cuba's Dayron Robles.

Story first published: Monday, August 18, 2008, 19:26 [IST]
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