Updated: 2012-08-22 17:57
China's world champion hurdler, Liu Xiang awoke the nation's long-sleeping interest in track and field events after he was the first man to ever win a men's track and field event for China. Before Liu won a gold medal in the men's 110m hurdle race with a record breaking performance at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, Chinese people had never before shown such a strong interest in track and field events. .
Liu has become a significant player in China's track and field events and the craze that has followed him is similar to Yao Ming's effect to China's basketball, both athletes prove how powerful a super sports star can be on promoting the development of a sport in China.
Liu has won 36 races, come second in 6, third in 3 others and has competed in a total of 48 international competitions since 2000. He is the first Chinese hurdler to break a world record, and win gold both at the Olympic Games and the World Championships.
Almost all Chinese sports fans hearts synchronize with fluctuation of Liu's performance.
As China's best hope for gold in a track and field event in 2008, he had to pull out before his first heat due to chronic inflammation in his right Achilles tendon.
Liu returned to the spotlight when he won gold at the 2010 Asian Games and silver at the 2011 World Championships.
In May 2004 at an IAAF Grand Prix race in Osaka, Japan, Liu beat Allen Johnson with a personal best record time of 13.06 seconds.
He won the gold medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics with a world record-equaling time of 12.91 seconds. It was China's first men's Olympic gold medal in a track and field event.
More significant, a lot of Chinese think that moment, defied the traditional thinking that Asian athletes couldn't compete in sprint events at the top level.
"I want to prove to the world that Asians can run very fast," said Liu.
Quickly following his success, Liu stirred a biding war among commercial sponsors. Liu's image frequently appeared on TV ads, commercial and charity activities.
According to Forbes Chinese Edition, Liu earned 23 million yuan in 2005, a dramatically increase figure from his 1.6 million earnings in 2004.
Leading up to the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics, Liu bore national expectations of a repeat victory on home soil. China deemed another gold medal from Liu essential for a successful Olympics.
Disappointingly, Liu withdrew from the Olympic 110m hurdles event. He walked off the track after a false start by another runner in his first-round heat, leaving the crowd at the Beijing National Stadium in stunned silence, confusion and tears
Despite of withdrawal, most Chinese fans believed Liu would come back. Liu still earned a historic 163 million yuan in 2008.
After a 13-month absence because of his injury, Liu finally returned to compete at the Shanghai Golden Grand Prixin 2009. He finished second with a time of 13.15s, 0.01s behind first place.
In the final of 2010 Asian Games, a total of 70,000 gathered at the Guangdong Olympic Stadium where he won his third consecutive title in the 110m hurdles, breaking the Games record with a run of 13.09 seconds. According to the China Central Television, about 700 million people across the world watched this final on television.
Sadly, four yeas after Beijing 2008 Olympics, Liu was once again hindered by injury and failed to complete in his heat at the London Olympics Games. He pulled his Achilles tendon while taking off and attempted to clear the first hurdle, but he crashed straight into it. Liu hopped the full 110 meter stretch; he was helped by a few of his fellow competitors and was put into a wheel chair and led away. He kissed the last hurdle before he left the track on Aug 7, 2012.
This time, much fewer people believe he will make a come back and now China will wait until the next "Liu Xiang" comes up again.
In 2006, Liu set a new world record in the 110 meter hurdles event with a time of 12.88 seconds, at the Super Grand Prix in Lausanne
He won gold in the 110 meter hurdles with 12.95 seconds at the 2007 World Athletics Championships in Osaka.
Liu won the gold medal for the 110m hurdles at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
He won the 110m hurdles at the 2010 Asian Games.
And Liu also won the 110-meter hurdles at the Diamond League meet in Shanghai with a time of 13.07.