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Liu Xiang completes emotional farewell with tears

Updated: 2015-05-18 00:31

SHANGHAI-- China's athletics hero Liu Xiang was emotional with tears in his retirement ceremony held on the sideline of the IAAF Diamond League Shanghai meet on Sunday.

Wearing white sneakers, dressed in jacket and jeans, the 2004 Olympic 110m hurdles champion and former world record holder presented awards to the 110m hurdles podium finishers and hugged his once arch rivals David Oliver, Orlando Ortega and Aries Merritt before attending the farewell ceremony.

On the stage, Liu turned around to wipe his tearful eyes before he gave any words. A big screen in the stadium played a video tracking back Liu's splendid, up-and-down career, including his Olympic winning race in Athens and record breaking run in Lausanne, Switzerland in 2006, also disappointing withdrawals from two Olympics.

In the video, Britain's Sebastian Coe, four-time Olympic champion, and Britain's Colin Jackson, three-time world champion and former 110m hurdles record holder, paid tributes to Liu's contribution to athletics. IAAF President Lamine Diack commended Liu as "a role model" and "an encouragement to more to take this sport".

All the nine hurdlers in Sunday's event jogged around the the stadium in company of Liu Xiang. Liu waved and blew kisses to the spectators. Finally he pointed his two index fingers towards the sky, symbolizing No. 1, and bowed to the cheering fans to close the ceremony.

Xiao Tian, vice director of China State Sports Administration, presented to Liu the "Outstanding Contribution Award".

"Over the years, the track and hurdles have been going side by side with my young days. In my career, I had never shrunk, never evaded reality, but everyone has ups and downs. It's you who make me feel so appreciative and thankful. Thanks a lot for your support, otherwise my life wouldn't be so brilliant," said Liu in his farewell speech.

Liu announced his retirement on April 7 through China's twitter-like Weibo as many had expected for the 31-year-old never stepped back on the track after he pulled his Achilles tendon attempting to clear the first hurdle in the heats at the 2012 London Olympics.

After the London Games, Liu underwent a surgery to repair his fragile Achilles tendon and got married. He showed up at various public activities and rejected the possibility to compete in the World Championships in August in Beijing, all signs pointing to an imminent retirement already.

Liu tried to keep the farewell as low-key as possible, choosing an uneventful date to wave goodbye to millions of fans on weibo until the retirement ceremony was announced on April 29.

The Shanghai native shot to fame when he won the 110m hurdles at the 2004 Athens Olympics, equalling Jackson's world record of 12.91 seconds.

Liu bettered the world record to 12.88 seconds in Lausanne in July 2006. And one year later, he won a world championship gold in Osaka, Japan to become the first male hurdler to own Olympic and world titles and the world record at the same time.

While Liu was conquering the 110m hurdles across the world, the shadow of injury crawled in and cost him dearly in his home Olympic Games in 2008.

In the first round heat in Beijing, Liu limped off the track with an aggravated Achilles tendon injury to the astonishment of a capacity Bird's Nest.

Four months later, he underwent a surgery in the United States and had four calcium deposits removed from his right foot.

Four years later, Liu's fate mysteriously repeated in a bad way. In London Olympics, Liu hopped on one foot to the finish line, kissed the hurdle and was wheelchaired off the track.

Just as his first withdrawal in Beijing, Liu, his team as well as the Chinese Athletics Association, were bombarded for concealing his injury.

And at the same time, many already felt that this could be Liu's last stop of his career.

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