Liu still looking to improve after Birmingham victory

Updated: 2012-02-20 08:05

By Lei Lei (China Daily)

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Liu still looking to improve after Birmingham victory

China's Liu Xiang gestures alongside a mascot after winning the men's 60m hurdles final during the IAAF Grand Prix indoor meeting at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham, Feb 18, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]

BEIJING - Despite beating archrival Dayron Robles in his season opening race in Birmingham on Saturday, China's star hurdler, Liu Xiang, and his coach believe things can still be improved for the crucial first three hurdles.

"We have to say Liu's performance at the first three hurdles were not as good as in training. We still have to solve that problem when we return home," said Liu's coach, Sun Haiping, after the hurdler claimed his first gold medal of the season with a new Asian record in the men's 60-meter event at the IAAF Indoor Grand Prix meet in Birmingham, England.

Liu blasted to victory in a season-best 7.41 seconds, while Robles of Cuba was a distant second in 7.50. America's Dexter Faulk finished third in 7.54.

It is the first race between Liu and Robles since the Daegu World Championships last August, where Robles, the reigning Olympic champion, was stripped of his 110m hurdles gold after fouling Liu as the two dashed for the line.

Despite kinks over the first three barriers on Saturday, Liu was satisfied with his performance.

"It is my personal indoor best and also an Asian record, so I'm very happy," Liu said. "I didn't expect to break the record. I didn't want to think too much just do what I had to do. I wanted to enjoy the race, to enjoy the happiness of exceeding my expectations."

The first half of the race is often a weak point for Liu, but he got off to a smooth start in Birmingham and maintained his lead all of the way to the line.

Coach Sun said before the race that if Liu could finish the indoor 60m race within 7.50 sec, it would help a lot in his quest to run under 13 sec in the outdoor 110m race. Liu's personal best outdoor result for the 110m hurdles is 12.88.

The success in Birmingham inspired many Liu's fans throughout the country, although the race took place at midnight Beijing time on Saturday.

There were more than 3 million comments about Liu's victory on Sina Weibo and most of the fans are looking forward to seeing Liu set a new 110m hurdles record during the outdoor season and also win gold at the London Olympic Games.

"Liu showed his championship temperament again," senior athletics writer Yang Ming of Xinhua News Agency wrote on his micro blog on Sunday morning.

"It shows that Liu has the chance to win back his Olympic title at the London Games or even claim a new world record," Yang said.

But for Liu, who experienced many ups and downs during his rehabilitation from a serious foot injury during past three years, it is just a start and he doesn't expect the high expectations to be a burden on him.

"I always work hard there is happiness as well as difficulties. I have experienced them all," said Liu.

"I feel no pressure. It is just because I'm the only fast Asian man in the hurdles that all eyes are on me. For myself, I was fast before (the injury) and I can be fast again."

Liu's next challenges will be another indoor race, in Stockholm on Thursday, and the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Istanbul, Turkey, from March 9-11. He will face Robles at both of those meets.