Sports / Stars

No heir in sight as Olympic legend Liu retires

By Sun Xiaochen (China Daily) Updated: 2015-04-07 20:36

No heir in sight as Olympic legend Liu retires

Liu kisses his hurdle after falling in a 110m hurdles heat at the London 2012 Olympic Games, on Aug 7, 2012. [Photo/IC]

"But my foot denied my attempts over and over again. I realized I couldn't withstand the high intensity for training and racing. I hate my foot as much as I love my track and my hurdles."

Liu was the first athlete to prove that Chinese sportsmen could compete against their Western counterparts in mainstream events when he won the 110m hurdles gold medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics in 12.91 seconds.

The image of him leaping on top of the podium while raising the Chinese national flag at the presentation ceremony is one of the most memorable moments in China's sporting history. His inspiring achievement gave his fellow sportsmen and sportswomen the confidence to challenge the world's best.

Adam Zhang, a sports researcher and founder of the Key-Sports consultancy, said, "The biggest legacy of Liu's career is that he showed that Asian athletes could succeed in sprint events and inspired a generation of not only athletes but ordinary Chinese people to be more confident in international competition."

A similar impact was made by Yao's National Basketball Association supremacy and Li's two Grand Slam singles wins.

Tan said the three stars' combination of confidence and straightforward personalities broke the stereotype of colorless Chinese athletes.

"In this regard, none of the active athletes have matched what they did so far," he said.

However, Liu's career was tarnished by a lack of transparency over his fitness and concerns about the influence of commercial considerations.

Mark Dreyer, an observer of Chinese sport, said, "The fact that he lined up at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics while far from fully fit raises uneasy questions about the role of his sponsors behind the scenes."

According to Chinese media reports, the State track and field administration had signed 17 endorsement deals worth a total of 100 million yuan ($16 million) for Liu before the 2012 Games. If he had not appeared the administration would have had to pay a penalty of as much as much as 300 million yuan.

However, Liu said in his microblog statement on Tuesday: "My life has been full of dramas. Even knowing that I would possibly hurt myself, I was determined to race in London as I don't want to be called a coward or the guy who escaped at the last minute."

Dreyer said: "Liu's triple triumphs of becoming Olympic champion, world champion and world record holder in his prime from 2004 to 2007 can never be taken away.

"Those performances transformed the image of Chinese athletics, even if the world is still waiting for his successor to emerge."

Liu said he plans to finish his academic studies at East China Normal University and then work to improve the fitness of young people in China.

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