Hurdler Liu Xiang’s Historic Gold Display in Athens 2004 | Olympics on the Record

Hurdler Liu Xiang’s Historic Gold Display in Athens 2004 | Olympics on the Record

Home advantage can be
a mixed blessing. The support of the
home crowd is welcome, but the burden of expectation
can be overwhelming. And in Beijing 2008, the entire Chinese nation was
looking to one man for glory. This man, Liu Xiang. Few people will ever be able to
understand the pressure that Liu Xiang was under to bring home gold
at the Beijing Olympics. His modest habits
and unassuming manner made him irresistible
to big business, desperate to be associated
with an authentic Chinese hero. In the build-up to the games,
Liu was everywhere, his image associated with
everything from sports brands
to soft drinks. His opening appearance
on the track brought the nation
to a standstill. China’s 110 metre hurdle champ was about to start
his Olympic campaign. TV audiences spiked. But something didn’t feel
right. There had been rumours
about his fitness, an old Achilles injury
flaring up. Liu was not himself. A false start by
Marcel van der Westen, but no-one was looking
at the Dutchman, a nation turned its eye on Liu. Did that just happen? Did he just pull up before
the first hurdle? And then he walked off. No restart, no heat,
no Olympic final for Liu Xiang. There was silence in the
stadium. TV audiences plunged. The pain, the shock. There were tears, dismay and bitter,
bitter disappointment. Now, wait a moment.
No-one died! Beijing 2008 was a great
success. China won plenty of gold
medals. So why did the fortunes of just
one athlete matter so much? Why so much pressure
on one man? To answer that question, you need to take a broader look at the history of
Chinese athletics. While it is true that China has been a heavyweight
at the Olympic Games, their success on the track
has been limited. The men’s team had won
just one medal, Zhu Jianhua winning bronze
in the high jump in 1984, and nothing since. Out of this emerged
the young Liu Xiang. He was inspired by Zhu to take
up athletics and the high jump. But at 6’2″, Liu is on the
short side for a high jumper. So, instead, Liu drifted into
the 110 metre hurdles, new ground for
a Chinese athlete. And something else
about the hurdles. It’s really hard. It’s really, really hard! Young Liu devoted himself
to the toughest, most technically demanding
discipline of them all. There are so many elements
to this craft, so much to get right,
so much to get wrong. At 16 Liu was the schoolboy
champion of China. At 18 he broke the junior
world record. At 20, he won a bronze medal
at the World Championship. Going into the 2004 Olympic
Games in Athens, China finally had a genuine
contender in track and field. Here’s heat 3.
Out of the blocks. Hernandez of Cuba
has a big start and Liu coming on now,
he always finishes well. Terrance Tremmel is coming with
him. Can he keep up with Liu? Liu easing up, he’s qualified
easily and so has Tremmel. Liu, now 21,
sailed through his heats, his exceptional technique seeing him safely
into the final. Olympic record holder Allen
Johnson would not be joining him after coming unstuck. The 110m hurdles,
an obstacle course with spikes. Liu had a real chance of
a medal. Chinese fans in their millions got up in the early hours
to watch. A nation dared to dream. And they’re off. Allen, a great start in lane 1. Tremmel from the USA in lane 6
is moving well too. But here comes Liu,
he’s being pushed by the Frenchman, Doucoure, but this is really fast.
He’s pulling away now, and Liu is in. That’s gold for China
and a new Olympic record! Just off the world mark. The first Chinese male athlete
in history to win gold in track and field. Liu would remain in the
headlines as the country prepared for Beijing 2008,
Liu’s home Olympic Games. In 2006, he set a new world
record of 12.88. In 2007, he won
the World Championship, another first for China and
Liu. He was all set to defend
his Olympic gold medal in his hometown in 2008. As we know, it didn’t work out Let’s not go over all that
again because
“to understand is to forgive”. But for everything he’s done
for Chinese sport, Liu Xiang doesn’t deserve
forgiveness, he deserves thanks.


  1. Good point, Liu deserves THANKS not forgiveness. this is sports, athletes give their best, that is all audience should ask for.

  2. To me Liu was the most efficient and smoothest of any hurdler. Add his speed, and if not for injury he could have won a lot more races.

  3. Liu Xiang brought a rare and coveted athletic distinction to the most populated nation on earth. Before him, no Asian had ever encroached Olympic track territory, let alone elite hurdling. Of the 10 fastest times recorded in the high hurdles, he holds two of them. (12.91 & 12.88) Another variable to ponder, the dominant nation and producer of champions in this event is the United States. In the eyes of China, while he was at his peak, Xiang's fan base was as though he were Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali and Babe Ruth rolled into one powerful image with an exponential factor off the charts. His blameless inability to defend his Olympic title in front of the home crowd bordered on the crowd feeling something akin to tragedy.

  4. That was a very strangely edited piece. All the way along I was expecting some sort of climactic event and all of a sudden it ends with a whimper. Badly put together presentation. It's accurate, but just weirdly produced. Am I the only one that got that feeling?

  5. I am Chinese and though I wasn’t there to see this happen, it was impossible not to know about this. I respect him so much and he was the person that got me into hurdling when I came to the US

  6. Anyone who can’t empathize is clearly not an experienced athlete. Every athlete experiences injuries, sometimes so debilitating that it pains you just to walk. I’m in high school track and completely understand why he couldn’t run that day.

  7. That was an awful video. The man ran 12.88 and that was included as an afterthought. Poor journalism. Xiang is often talked about among the greatest ever…with Nehemiah, Merritt, Milburn, Robles. This video basicall shamed him for an injury in 2008 and implies that he crumbled under pressure. Poorly done. Xiang is one of the very best.

  8. Hurdles really isn't that hard. I never understood why people stuggled so much. I always found myself taking four steps to be in the perfect position to the next hurdle. All you need is basic flexibility and height awareness. I've literally NEVER knocked a hurdle over and my best time was 15.4. Granted though I'm no Olympian.

  9. Wow 6’2” is short for a high jumper I never knew they were so tall! I high jump in High school currently (freshman) and I’m 5’11”

  10. When he was at his prime I was too young to bother knowing, then after that all I heard was oh dude broke his ankle , oh he broke his ankle again

  11. I can't help comparing him to Derek Redmond, who finished his race despite suffering an injury on the tracks. It is possible to feel proud of and be thankful of what someone had accomplish while at the same time, feel disappointed at that person's other actions.

    Life, is not binay, it is not black and white, but shades of gray.

  12. Chinese athletes have a very, very, very difficult and different circumstance around them. Dont forget that.
    They are under 10x the pressure and undergo way more more training.

  13. If I watched this video before I did track, I would have never done Hurdles like I chose to. Still one of the best choices I've made

  14. He let his actions speak for itself on the track, off it he was quiet and unassuming with no airs. What a man 👍🏻

  15. “China won plenty of gold medals”
    proceeds to show a clip of two Chinese ping pong players both in the final

  16. Wow. This is shocking. Complete failure on team China and Liu Xiang. I didn't know he didn't start in Final due to injury. Instead of becoming legend, he will remember by this failure. Wow.

  17. I'm a 12 year old asain and I do hurdles for Doncaster so hopefully that will be me one day representing Britain 🤞🤞

  18. Generation problems, back in 2008, the main force on the internet and media are people born in the 1980s, who were still heavily nationalists and don't understand how to appreciate an athlete. If this story happened 10 years later, when the more liberal 90ers have grown up. He would get much less negative comments from uneducated idiots.

  19. Pressure. Liu was a person who is emotional and get over excited easily. But he still is a hero in the eyes of the Chinese ppl. As an Asian, getting a medal in track and field is big news. After all, we do not have the physical genes endowed by black athletes.

  20. I am from Honduras and I love Xiu Xiang!! Sports and music will always serve as catalysts that unite humanity. Yes, sports is competitive, but I will cheer with pride and stand in solidarity with a great athlete of any color, ethnicity or country of origin.

  21. I hope Liu was given a stable of fine athletic females to help him foster more champions of the future. The offspring would be in their early teens by now so we will know in a few years.

  22. At 4:08 american showoff, bites the dust. Sunglasses and nothing to show for. hahahaha ! Just stay down american, you are nothing against China.

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