Liu's coach issues warning, gold not a foregone conclusion

Liu Xiang's coach on Monday issued a disaster warning even before the national icon had stepped onto the track at the Beijing Olympics, the dpa reported.

The China Daily, in a story titled "Injured Liu vs terrifying opponent," quoted coach Sun Haiping as saying that Liu is still nursing a hamstring problem which could ruin the gold medal ambitions.

"It won't cause any problems in the heats, but I am worried about the semi-finals and final," Sun said.

Liu won Olympic gold in 2004 and the 2007 world title. He held the world record for two years and is the most popular Olympic athlete, putting him under huge pressure to deliver in his event which was due to start with the heats later on Monday.

But Liu has been plagued by the injury and went into hiding since his last race in mid-May where he ran 13.17 seconds. He only checked into the athletes village on Saturday, the China Daily said.

To make things worse, Cuba's Dayron Robles has in the meantime stolen the world record with a run of 12.87 seconds to be the number one gold medal contender.

"Liu's injury has been diagnosed as something wrong with the hamstring, but not with the bone. It is an accumulated injury due to long training and it will affect him if he uses power," Sun said.

Power is exactly what Liu needs to beat Robles, but Liu was quoted as saying that he was ready for the challenge.

"From an overall comparison he is stronger than me. It is clear that he is the best hurdler out of everyone coming to the Beijing Games but I still believe I can beat him. I am at that level now," the China Daily quoted Liu as saying.

Anticipation was huge as there was a distinct buzz around the sun- flooded National Stadium at the start of Monday's session. Chinese fans were rushing to their seats long before Liu's race, which could give a first indication of his health.

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