Liu Xiang planted a kiss on what may be the final hurdle of his Olympic career after he tripped and fell in his second consecutive disaster on the track at the Summer games.
The Chinese athlete careered into the first hurdle of the 110-meter heat and limped down the track, kissing the last hurdle before being helped into a wheelchair. Aries Merritt of the U.S. ran the fastest opening heat time in history to make the semifinals.
Jamaica’s Usain Bolt also returned to the track today, strolling through to the semis of the 200 meters after successfully defending his 100-meter title two days ago. He commiserated with 29-year-old Liu, who had also bowed out in the 2008 Beijing games with an Achilles injury.
“It must be hard for that to happen for the second time in a row,” Bolt told reporters in London. “He’s a true champion. It’s so sad for him.”
Liu, who won gold in Athens in 2004, also took silver at the 2011 world championships and had run the second-fastest time this year.
“It’s a shame it happened to Liu,” said Merritt, whose 13.07-second win was the seventh fastest ever. “I don’t think anything was wrong before the race. He looked OK. You make a mistake, you’re out of the game.”
Liu’s face was one of the most widely seen in the buildup to the Beijing games, where concerns over his fitness dominated the news. He had surgery in the U.S. and returned to the sport in 2010 after changing his technique out of the blocks. He’s been hampered by back and foot complaints in the past month, and had his right Achilles taped up today before starting the race.
Bolt, in the 200 meters, was able to slow down, look around and check the position of his rivals before crossing the line in 20.39 seconds. The Jamaican set a record for that distance in Beijing, before trimming his time further to 19.19 seconds at the 2009 world championships.
Bolt’s training partner Yohan Blake, who beat his compatriot in the Jamaican trials ahead of the Olympics, also made it through to tomorrow’s semifinals, as did Europe’s fastest man, Christophe Lemaitre of France, and the U.S.’s Wallace Spearmon, Isiah Young and Maurice Mitchell. The final is on Aug. 9.
The semifinals and final of the 110-meter hurdles take place tomorrow night.
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