Is Xie ready to fill Liu's shoes?

Updated: 2013-05-21 07:09

By Sun Xiaochen (China Daily)

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Is Xie ready to fill Liu's shoes?

World champion hurdler Jason Richardson is confident a new generation of Chinese athletes will rise up and fill the shoes of Liu Xiang.

With oft-injured Liu, the former world and Olympic champion, slowly fading from the track and field spotlight, the sport's popularity has fallen in China in terms of attendance and ticket sales; a fact made evident by poor turnout at the IAAF Diamond League Shanghai at the weekend.

Some of the contenders in Shanghai, including Richardson, noticed the empty seats but remained upbeat about the sport's future in China.

"I definitely did feel a slight decline in the support of us because Liu was absent. Of course, he is a major star internationally for track and field as a whole, but first and foremost for China," the 2011 Daegu World Championships winner said at the launch of the 2013 IAAF World Challenge Beijing leg on Monday.

"But what I can say is China is creating an amazing tradition in hurdling. I know that you had a young guy (Xie Wenjun) who had a personal best in the Shanghai race.

"I definitely know that y'all still have what it takes internationally to produce great athletes and I know that the Shanghai Diamond League can continue to be one of the best on the tour."

While Liu is recovering from heel surgery, his teammate Xie has emerged up as the next great hope for Chinese hurdling under the guidance of Sun Haiping, who steered Liu to gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Xie (pictured) showed his class by claiming bronze at the Shanghai meet with a personal best of 13.28 sec, just 0.05 sec slower than Richardson.

Sun, who appeared even happier than Xie at the end of the final, has high expectations for the 23-year-old.

"From his training status, physical development and results at recent events, it's highly possible for him to join the world's elite," Sun said.

(China Daily 05/21/2013 page24)