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No matter the color of the medal, Liu Xiang, China's superstar of track and field, said the most important thing now is to have fun after conquering his career-threatening injury. |
Approaching the IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, with a laidback attitude, the hurdler impressed all.
"I thought it was a great race from the start to the finish. Yes, definitely he's back," American Allen Johnson, the four-time world champion in the men's 110m hurdles, said of Liu.
"He came out here and almost won the world title. Yes, for sure (he has a gold medal chance in London)," Johnson told China Daily after the final on Monday.
"Look at him. It's obvious. He is still in great shape, and to me he's still able to run just as fast as anyone. He's got a 13.00 this year, which is very fast. He is only 28 years' old. He is very young."
Liu experienced a dramatic night on Monday. After taking the early lead, Liu was impeded by archrival Dayron Robles of Cuba twice and lost his balance to finish third.
However, the Chinese team lodged an appeal to the sport's governing body, the IAAF. Eventually, Robles was disqualified for obstructing a rival, which handed the world title to American Jason Richardson while Liu was promoted to second place and a silver instead of a bronze.
According to IAAF rule 163.2, "any competing athlete who jostles or obstructs another athlete, so as to impede his progress, shall be liable to disqualification from that event".
The former world and Olympic champion felt the whole event was "interesting".
"Actually, it's very interesting," Liu said on Tuesday, almost 12 hours after the final. "Anything can happen during a race and nobody knows the outcome beforehand. We should just enjoy what competitive sports bring to us.
"It is now in the past. No matter if it is me or Robles, or even Richardson, we don't have to think about it again."
As for Robles, who is a good friend, Liu said he should not be blamed for what transpired.
"I don't like to say anything about Robles and I hope he is not to be blamed," Liu said. "I think it was just an instinctive action. I don't want to explain it too much. It's just a competition. I felt sympathy for him after his disqualification."
Liu's maturation has also been hailed.
"Liu showed his maturity after the race and he is really a man," said Sun Jihai, a former Chinese national soccer player. "He should have been the winner but he was not upset to lose the title. I admire him from the bottom of my heart. I should learn from him. I wish him good luck at the London Olympics."
As for the London Games next year, Liu said it might be his last Olympics and all he wants to do is perform at his best and enjoy the races.
"No one is sure to take the Olympic gold in London. It depends on how strong we all are," he said.
His coach said he still has to improve his new technique - using seven steps instead of eight to approach the first hurdle.
"It is only half a year since Liu adopted the new technique; he used the eight-step opening for 10 years. So, it's not an easy thing for him," said Sun Haiping. "We will learn from the incident this time to strengthen his stamina and upper body," the coach said.