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September 19, 2009

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Liu says he's recovered and ready to run

CHINESE track star Liu Xiang says he's fully prepared for the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix this weekend even though it will be his first race since he pulled up lame at last year's Beijing Olympics.

"I can race and I feel I am ready to race," the 26-year-old former Olympic and world champion in the 110-meter hurdles said at a news conference yesterday. He had been asked if he was taking a risk by making an early return to the track after being off for 13 months due to an injured Achilles tendon.

"There is always risk when you walk onto the track. I don't worry too much about risks, and I'm happy just to be coming back," he said.

The Shanghai native received most of the questions from reporters ahead of the athletic competition, to be held in Shanghai Stadium on Sunday, even though Russian pole vault queen Yelena Isinbayeva joined him on the podium.

'It's my job'

When asked what motivated him to make a comeback given that he is already the first Chinese athlete to win a world championship, Olympic gold and a world record, Liu said, "It's my job. I'm in pretty good condition now; otherwise I wouldn't appear here and race."

Liu ran a practice heat last Thursday in 13.71 seconds, according to his coach, Sun Haiping. Though it was far from his personal best and former world record of 12.88 set in 2006 in Lausanne, Switzerland, the result gave Liu and his coach the confidence to take part in the weekend event.

It was a decision that surely pleased organizers, who were reeling from the news that Jamaican speedster Usain Bolt would withdraw from the event.

Ticket sales have risen since Liu announced he would participate.

Foreign interest

"We have more foreign fans buying tickets this year," said Cheng Kelun, marketing director for the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix. "Though most of them were expecting Usain Bolt's Shanghai debut, Liu Xiang's comeback is good news for all the fans."

Liu won the 2005 and 2006 Shanghai event and finished third in the 2007 edition when Dayron Rubles of Cuba took the title. Liu missed the 2008 event due to his injury.

Racing in front of a home crowd, Liu's most formidable opponents will be American Terrence Trammell, silver medalist at the World Championships in Berlin.

Also competing is Liu's good friend, American Allan Johnson, a 38-year-old former Olympic and world champion.

Chinese sports authorities have pointed out that even though doctors said that Liu is fit to race, fans should not expect too much of him as he is not yet in top form.

Pole vaulter Isinbayeva will be looking to defend the title she won in Shanghai last year.

Asked what advice she had for Liu as he makes a return, the Olympic champion and world record holder told the hurdler he should shut out the noise and focus on meeting his own expectations.

"Even if you are on top and you feel everyone expects something great from you -- a new world record, a victory all the time -- you must be focused on yourself, because we always expect too much from ourselves," she said.

Other big names competing on Sunday will be American Tyson Gay and Jamaican Asafa Powell, who will run in the 100 meters.

Both confirmed their participation earlier this week, after Olympic and world champion Bolt withdrew due to fatigue, organizers said.


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