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September 21, 2009

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Liu finishes second on return to track

CHINESE hurdler Liu Xiang placed second last night at the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix in his first race since a foot injury forced him to pull out of the Beijing Olympic Games one year ago.

Liu received boisterous applause from his hometown crowd and put his hand to his heart before collapsing on the track after finishing the 110-meter hurdles in 13.15 seconds.

American Terrence Trammell, who placed second at the world championships last month in Berlin, won the race in a photo finish.

"I never thought I'd have such a great result," Liu said before he trotted around the track with his shirt off - a move that brought louder cheers at Shanghai Stadium. Shi Dongping took the bronze in 13.34.

Liu has been one of the China's most popular athletes after winning the country's first Olympic gold medal in track at the Athens Games in 2004. Although his time yesterday was far off his personal best of 12.88, expectations were low for him after taking a year off from competition.

The Chinese track star looked healthy and relaxed. When he was introduced to the crowd and his image appeared on the stadium's massive TV screen, Liu mugged for the cameras by making a silly bug-eyed expression before grinning and raising his fists in the air.

Coach Sun Haiping said Liu "was encouraged by the fans and the lead Terrence had pushed him forward. Also, the wind tonight helped."

Sun was also satisfied with another of his wards, 18-year-old Xie Wenjun, who finished in 13.53. "I'm happy with the result. I set an aim of 13.70 for him and he was faster."

Second fastest

Elsewhere, former world champion Tyson Gay equalled the second fastest 100-meter time ever when he clocked 9.69 seconds.

Gay said that he was worried about his groin injury before the race and was surprised with the result.

Gay's time tied the world record set by Jamaican Usain Bolt when he won the 100 final in Beijing.

Bolt reduced his record to 9.58 at the world championships.

Gay's teammate Carmelita Jeter overtook Marion Jones as the world's second fastest women over 100 when she clocked 9.64. Only the late Florence Griffith-Joyner has run faster.

Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva made another attempt at improving her world record but failed to clear 5.07 meters - one centimeter higher than her current mark. Isinbayeva, who has broken the world outdoor and indoor marks 27 times, won with a vault of 4.85. Poland's Anna Rogowska placed second with 4.60, and her compatriot Monika Pyrek got third with 4.50.

In the men's 200, Wallace Spearmon pulled away comfortably in the last 70 meters to win in 20.57 seconds. Kim Collins of St Kitts and Nevis placed second in 20.90, and American Shawn Crawford came in third, clocking 21.04.

American LaShawn Merritt, first at the worlds, won the 400 in 45.28. Robert Tobin was second in 45.49, and Gary Kikaya (45.63) third.


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