By LIM MUN FAH
Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE
Sin Chew Daily
The gunshot sounded, he took off and sped towards the first hurdle.
At that very moment when he tried to clear the first hurdle, he fell!
Yes, I am talking about Liu Xiang, who is recognised as one of the best hurdlers of all time.
Four years ago, Liu shocked all when he had to withdraw from the men’s 110-meter hurdles at the Beijing Olympics, due to an Achilles tendon injury.
Four years later, he again shocked all when he crashed at the first hurdle at the London Olympics.
However, he did not sadly limped off the track this time, but struggled to get up and hopped to the last hurdle, kissed it, before heading to the finish line and embraced by fellow competitors who then helped him off the track.
It was dramatic and solemnly stirring.
Eight years ago at the Athens Olympics, Liu won the 110-metre hurdles as a black horse, equalling the world record of 12.91 seconds. Since then, he became a "flying man" in the world's sport and a hero idol in China. He was only 21 years old at that time.
Who would have thought that at the Beijing Olympics four years later, he suddenly withdrew from the Games with an Achilles injury? Even worse, he was hit by comments criticising him for not reflecting the Olympic spirit, and called by various extremely nasty nicknames, causing him to fall to the bottom from the peak.
He was young at that time and thus, he recovered after a rehabilitation period and made a perfect comeback a year later. He won gold medals at the 2010 Asian Games, the 2011 World Championships and many crucial Games in the year 2012, announcing the return of the flying man!
This time in London, he was still a heavy favourite. However, his supporters were vaguely uneasy when they heard about the bad news saying that he again suffered from the injury. People were worried that the curse of the 2008 Beijing Olympics might hit again. Unfortunately, the incident had indeed repeated itself.
If it is a pity for Datuk Lee Chong Wei to win the silver medal for two consecutive Olympic Games, it is then not only a pity, but an unfortunate tragedy for Liu to pull out twice with an Achilles injury.
Although Chong Wei will be 34 years old when the next Olympic Games is held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil four years later, he could still play and chase the first Olympic gold medal for Malaysia, if his conditions permit him to do so.
But for Liu, even if he is totally recovered by that time, it would be difficult for a 33-year-old athlete to compete in the highly competitive athletics. Moreover, his injury might be severe.
An athlete's life, after all, is limited. The flying man will definitely have to work harder to make another comeback and climb to the top like how he did four years ago. Otherwise, he might have to abruptly put an end to his hurdle career.
Medals are not the only standard to justify the greatness of an athlete. We applause for Chong Wei and cheer for Liu Xiang. We thank them for bringing the world wonderful moments and classic matches, while giving children around the world a precious life inspiring lesson!