'Idol' inspires China's 9th hurdles triumph

AFP
Xie Wenjun successfully defended his 110-meter hurdles gold at the Asian Games yesterday to stretch China's winning streak in the race to 32 years.
AFP

Xie Wenjun successfully defended his 110-meter hurdles gold at the Asian Games yesterday to stretch China’s winning streak in the race to 32 years — with a little help from hurdling great Liu Xiang.

Xie, 28, crossed the line in 13.34sec to hand China its ninth consecutive win in the event stretching back to the 1986 Games in Seoul. After a slow start he overtook silver medallist Chen Kuei-ru of Chinese Taipei at the final hurdle, when his rival appeared to stumble.

“I feel awesome now. The pressure is released,” said Xie. “This medal is a very important medal not just for me but also Chinese hurdling, because it has been kept for a long time.”

Xie said he had been given “special instructions” before the race by former Olympic champion and world-record holder Liu, who is revered as one of China’s greatest ever sportsmen.

“He’s my idol, and it is also an aim to catch up with him. But I’m still on the way,” said Xie.

“We trained together for seven or eight years, and we have similar personalities.”

Xie has been dubbed the “heir to Liu” in China, taking on the mantle of the Olympic gold medallist since his retirement due to injury in 2015.

Liu won the nation’s first ever track-and-field Olympic gold at Athens 2004 with a then joint world record time of 12.91 second. He was also a three-time champion at the Asian Games.

After his Athens gold, Liu’s career was later blighted by hamstring injuries, ending his bids for further Olympic gold at Beijing 2008 and London 2012.

Xie admitted he had come into the Asian Games with a knee injury of his own.

“I’m only at 70 percent. I’m also surprised by the result,” he said. “I only can maintain the knee. It’s like a one-time use thing — it may get broken after using it for a short time.”

The last time China did not win the 110 hurdles was at the 1982 Games in New Delhi. The only other country to achieve such a long streak in men’s athletics is Japan, who won the men’s pole vault at nine consecutive Asian Games between 1951 to 1982.

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