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Liu Xiang is an athlete competing in track and field at the 2012 London Summer Olympics for China. /he is making his third appearance at the Games where he figures to contend for gold in the 110m hurdles. After winning gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, Liu was forced to pull out of the Beijing Games with an Achilles injury, leaving the home crowd dismayed.

Liu appeared to be well on his way toward winning gold at the World Championships in Daegu in 2011. But at the ninth hurdle, Cuba's Dayron Robles inadvertently made contact with Liu twice, the last time hooking his arm. The contact appeared to throw Liu off balance and he tripped on the last hurdle — a rarity for the technician — on his way to a third-place finish behind Robles and American Jason Richardson. After the race, China lodged a formal protest and Robles was disqualified. Richardson was elevated to gold, Liu to silver and Britain's Andy Turner to bronze. "Robles hit me twice, at the ninth hurdle he pulled at me but I'm sure it wasn't intentional," Liu said. "I lost my balance when I came to the 10th hurdle because of the bump. If not for the incident, I would have been the gold medalist."

After three mostly injury-hampered seasons, Liu served notice that his career is far from finished at the Diamond League meeting in Shanghai. Running against his rivals Shi Dongpeng of China and American David Oliver, who both beat him in the same race a year earlier, Liu stormed to the lead out of the blocks and using an altered technique — he switched to taking seven steps to the first hurdle instead of his customary eight — scored an upset victory in 13.09 seconds. Liu's victory snapped an 18-race winning streak by Oliver. "I didn't quite expect too much from my new technique," Liu said after the race. "It was just a try. I need to be patient because sometimes when you are applying a new technique I have to make sure I keep my own pace instead of being affected by the other athletes."

Liu made his return to international competition at the 2010 World Indoor Championships in Doha. Although he admitted that his right foot has yet to fully recover, he managed to finish in seventh place. His sole appearance on the Diamond League circuit came at the Shanghai Grand Prix, where he lost to national rival Shi Dongpeng for the first time, and American David Oliver. Following a six-month break, he marked his return to form at the Asian Games, where a crowd of 70,000 gathered at the Guangdong Olympic Stadium to see him in the 110m hurdles final, which he won easily in 13.09 seconds.

After a 13-month absence because of his injury, Liu finally returned to competition at the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix in 2009. Liu recorded a time of 13.15, one-hundredth of a second behind American Terrence Trammell. Afterward, Liu said he was happy with his performance. Liu did not compete internationally again in 2009. Toward the end of the year, he competed at a number of major events on home turf, winning gold at the Asian Athletics Championships, the East Asian Games and the Chinese National Games.

Liu's injury was later revealed to be a recurrence of chronic inflammation in his right Achilles tendon. His coach, Sun Haiping addressed the media during a press conference and stated that the hurdler had been hampered by a tendon injury for six or seven years. He fought back tears as he explained, "We worked hard every day, but the result was as you see and it is really hard to take." Liu made a public apology to the Chinese media the following day, saying he could "do nothing but pull out of the race" because of his foot injury.

Leading up to the Summer Olympics in Beijing, Liu bore national expectations of a repeat victory on home soil. Chinese officials went so far as to deem a second gold medal from Liu as essential for a successful Olympics. On August 18, the day of the opening round of 110m hurdles heats, Liu warmed up in the bowels of the Bird's Nest and it was apparent that all was not well. He emerged from underneath the stadium for his to the deafening roar of a crowd of 90,000-plus. As he went through his warm-ups, it became apparent to all that he was moving gingerly on his right Achilles. After a few painful hurdles following a false start by another runner, Liu put his head down, ripped the lane sticker off his hip and walked off the track, leaving the crowd at the Beijing National Stadium in stunned silence, confusion, and tears.

The face of the Beijing Olympics did not have a promising lead-up to the Games. Liu was scheduled to run twice in the United States early in the summer of 2008 but did not make it the finish line either time. At the Reebok Grand Prix in New York, he decided not to run on a rainy night and risk further injury to his inflamed Achilles. After apologizing to the crowd, he hopped a fence and left Icahn Stadium. A week later, he was scheduled to run at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene. He made it to the start line this time, but false started weakly on two occasions and was disqualified from the race. This led to speculation he was unfit to run.

Liu was asked by the Chinese government to limit his links to the outside world while training for the Beijing Olympics. On Dec. 7, 2007, he made his last public appearance in his native Shanghai and 11 days later moved to Beijing to begin closed-door winter training under the close watch of the Chinese State General Administration of Sports. Liu's closed-door session was to end in March, followed by a few meets in the spring.

The improvement Liu made over the course of his career can be seen in his results at the World Championships. At his first Worlds in Paris in 2003, he won a bronze medal in the 110m hurdles in 13.23 seconds. At the 2005 Worlds in Helsinki, Liu took silver in 13.08, just one-hundredth of a second behind winner Ladji Doucoure of France. In Osaka in 2007, Liu won his first gold, running 12.95. Because of injury, Liu was unable to compete at the 2009 Worlds in Berlin.

With Liu one of China's most celebrated sports stars, Ping An, China's second largest insurer by market share, donated $13.3 million of coverage for his legs as part of its sponsorship of the Chinese track team. "You can't really put a concrete figure on this," Liu told the Beijing News. "They're priceless. However, I don't care how much it is. Naturally, I hope never to collect this money and just keep on staying healthy."

Liu set a new world record in the 110m hurdles, at the Super Grand Prix in Lausanne on July 11, 2006, with a time of 12.88 seconds. In that same race, American Dominique Arnold had also beaten the previous record with a time of 12.90. In September, Liu won gold at IAAF World Athletics Final in Stuttgart, Germany, running 12.93.

Xiang put an end to his country's track and field medal drought in Athens in 2004 when he won gold in the 110m hurdles, tying the world record of 12.91 seconds. No Chinese man had won an Olympic track and field medal since Zhu Jianhua earned China's first, a high jump bronze, at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

The 2003 outbreak of SARS in China disrupted Liu's training and competition schedule. Nationwide travel restrictions forced Liu to miss a Grand Prix meet in Osaka. Throughout the crisis, Liu continued to train and was fit enough to finish third at the 2003 Worlds behind Johnson and American Terrence Trammell.

Liu first gained widespread attention in 2002 when, as an 18-year-old, he set a world junior and Asian record in the 110m hurdles (13.12 seconds). At the 2003 World Indoor Championships, Liu — awed by American Allen Johnson, Anier Garcia of Cuba and Great Britain's Colin Jackson — merely hoped to finish in the top eight. He ended up surprising the field by beating Jackson and taking third behind Johnson, who won, and Garcia. A year later at Indoor Worlds, Liu outran everyone but Johnson to win silver.

Like grandparents the world over, Liu's cherished the opportunity to dote on their grandchild. As a youngster, his grandmother cooked a special dish that she believed would give him the energy required to sprint down a track and leap over obstacles. The dish was specially braised pork in brown sauce. It has been a favorite of his ever since.

When he's not competing, the Liu enjoys bowling and karaoke. Although he is arguably the most popular sports star in China, the Shanghai native admits that he has no time for a romantic relationship, citing that he wishes he had taken the chance to form one before the Athens Olympics, which catapulted him to fame: "There is no girlfriend. No time."


How tall is Liu Xiang? How old is Liu Xiang? Where does Liu Xiang live? Find out here.

Age: 33 years old
Birthday: July 13, 1983
Height: 6' 2"
Weight: 163 lbs.
Birthplace: Shanghai, China
Current Residence: Beijing, China

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