Thursday, June 5, 2008

China's Liu Xiang in doubt for last pre-Games race -- coach

China's Liu Xiang in doubt for last pre-Games race -- coach

BEIJING (AFP) — China's 110m hurdles world champion Liu Xiang is a doubt for Sunday's Prefontaine Classic in the United States, his last race before the Beijing Olympics, his coach said.

Speaking in Eugene, Oregon, where the Chinese Olympic champion is training, coach Sun Haiping said that Liu had made a full recovery from a tight hamstring that kept him out of a race in New York last weekend.

But a cautious Sun told Thursday's Nanfang Sports newspaper that the 24-year-old star was still feeling muscle twinges in other areas and would have to prove himself fit before he would be allowed to race.

"We will put his spikes on and run him over the hurdles fast," Sun was quoted as saying.

"If there is still trouble, then he will pull out (of Sunday's race). If he comes through without a problem, then we will certainly race.

"In training over the past couple of days Liu still suffered some pain but the problems are not related to his hamstring but are from other areas."

The decision to pull Liu out of the New York race sparked near-panic back home with newspapers saying Liu's Olympic preparations had been disrupted.

The Shanghai runner established himself as a sporting idol in China when he won the Olympic title in Athens four years ago and then set a new 110m world record in 2006 before running away with the world title last year.

But he has only competed twice at outdoor events this season including an appearance at an Olympic test event last month in Beijing at which he faced no international competition.

On both occasions his pace was well below his own world record of 12.88sec and the 12.92 mark he set in winning the world championship in Osaka last August.

Sun admitted that the latest injury scare had been a set-back for Liu's Olympic preparations.

"In 2008 we haven't had any races with high-level competition so these two US events were planned to be our warm-up for the Olympics," he said.

Liu's preparations for the Games would have to be modified, Sun added.

"From a training point of view, first we need to help him recover, then we need new tactics," he said, without elaborating.


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