Xiang Liu

Athlete Profile

    Pr Of China Pr Of China
    13 JUL 1983
Chinese sprint hurdler Liu Xiang (Getty images)

Personal Best - Outdoor

Performance Wind Place Date
110 Metres Hurdles 12.88 +1.1 Lausanne (Pontaise) 11 JUL 2006

Personal Best - Indoor

Performance Wind Place Date
50 Metres Hurdles 6.44 Liévin 28 FEB 2004
60 Metres Hurdles 7.41 Birmingham (NIA), GBR 18 FEB 2012

Progression - Outdoor

110 Metres Hurdles

Performance Wind Place Date
2012 12.97 +0.4 Shanghai (SS) 19 MAY
2011 13.00 +1.8 Eugene (Hayward Field), OR 04 JUN
2010 13.09 +1.1 Guangzhou 24 NOV
2009 13.15 +1.2 Shanghai 20 SEP
2008 13.18 0.0 Beijing (National Stadium) 24 MAY
2007 12.92 +1.5 New York City (Icahn), NY 02 JUN
2006 12.88 +1.1 Lausanne (Pontaise) 11 JUL
2005 13.05 -0.1 Shanghai 17 SEP
2005 13.05 +1.1 Lausanne (Pontaise) 05 JUL
2004 12.91 +0.3 Athína (Olympic Stadium) 27 AUG
2003 13.17 0.0 Lausanne (Pontaise) 01 JUL
2002 13.12 +1.6 Lausanne (Pontaise) 02 JUL
2001 13.32 +1.9 Shanghai 06 MAY
2000 13.75 -0.3 Santiago de Chile (E.Nacional) 19 OCT
1999 14.19 01 JAN

Progression - Indoor

50 Metres Hurdles

Performance Place Date
2004 6.44 Liévin 28 FEB
2002 6.52 Liévin 24 FEB

60 Metres Hurdles

Performance Place Date
2012 7.41 Birmingham (NIA), GBR 18 FEB
2011 7.55 Karlsruhe 13 FEB
2010 7.65 Doha (Aspire Dome) 14 MAR
2008 7.46 Valencia (Velódromo Luis Puig), ESP 08 MAR
2007 7.42 Karlsruhe 11 FEB
2005 7.50 Tianjin 01 MAR
2004 7.43 Budapest (Sportaréna) 06 MAR
2003 7.51 Wien 09 MAR
2002 7.55 Gent 10 FEB
2001 7.74 Beijing 20 FEB

Honours - 60 Metres Hurdles

Rank Mark Wind Place Date
IAAF World Indoor Championships 2012 2 7.49 Istanbul (Ataköy Arena) 11 MAR 2012
13th IAAF World Indoor Championships 7 7.65 Doha (Aspire Dome) 14 MAR 2010
12th IAAF World Indoor Championships 1 7.46 Valencia (Velódromo Luis Puig), ESP 08 MAR 2008
10th IAAF World Indoor Championships 2 7.43 Budapest (Sportaréna) 06 MAR 2004
9th IAAF World Indoor Championships 3 7.52 Birmingham (NIA), GBR 16 MAR 2003

Honours - 110 Metres Hurdles

Rank Mark Wind Place Date
The XXX Olympic Games h6 DNF +0.4 London (Olympic Stadium) 07 AUG 2012
13th IAAF World Championships in Athletics 2 13.27 -1.1 Daegu (DS) 29 AUG 2011
The XXIX Olympic Games h6 DNF -0.1 Beijing (National Stadium) 18 AUG 2008
11th IAAF World Championships in Athletics 1 12.95 +1.7 Osaka (Nagai Stadium) 31 AUG 2007
10th IAAF World Cup in Athletics 2 13.03 +0.4 Athína (Olympic Stadium) 17 SEP 2006
4th IAAF World Athletics Final 1 12.93 -0.6 Stuttgart (Gottlieb-Daimler Stadion) 09 SEP 2006
10th IAAF World Championships in Athletics 2 13.08 -0.2 Helsinki (Olympic Stadium) 12 AUG 2005
28th Olympic Games 1 12.91 +0.3 Athína (Olympic Stadium) 27 AUG 2004
1st IAAF World Athletics Final 4 13.27 -1.5 Monaco (Stade Louis II) 13 SEP 2003
9th IAAF World Championships in Athletics 3 13.23 +0.3 Paris Saint-Denis (Stade de France) 30 AUG 2003
9th IAAF World Cup in Athletics f DNF -2.2 Madrid (CM) 21 SEP 2002
8th IAAF World Championships 4sf3 13.51 +0.2 Edmonton (Commonwealth Stadium) 08 AUG 2001
IAAF/Coca Cola World Junior Championships 4 13.87 -0.1 Santiago de Chile (E.Nacional) 20 OCT 2000

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(Updated 11 September 2006)

LIU Xiang, China (110m hurdles)

Born: 13 July, 1983, Shanghai, 1.89m / 85kg
Coach: Sun Haiping - Personal best: 12.88 seconds

As an only child, Liu Xiang was born in Shanghai, a bustling metropolis in eastern China, on July 13, 1983 When the extended family gathered to discuss what name they should give to the baby, his aunt suggested his parents combine their surnames. This was fine idea as his mother's surname Ji means harmony in Chinese. "But it immediately occurred to me that Liu Ji in Chinese sounds like another two Chinese characters with the meaning: failure to advance to the next grade in school!" says Liu's mum, Ji Fenhua, now a retired pastry cook at the Shanghai Food Processing Factory. They finally opted for "Xiang," meaning "spreading wings to fly."

Like many children in China, Liu was cared for by his grandparents for much of his childhood because his parents were busy with their jobs. His grandmother Chen Xiubao cooked a special dish that she believed would give him the energy required to sprint down a track and leap over obstacles. Specially braised pork in brown sauce has been a favourite of the athlete ever since.

Liu's career path is a classic Chinese tale of being recruited for a sport at a young age - in Liu's case 12 - and placed in a school away from his family. Half a head taller than his peers, Liu was encouraged by his sports teachers to take up the high jump. He took classes for a half-day and trained the other half as a high jumper.

Plans changed when Liu was about 15 as his sports school asked him to give up the event because a bone test showed that he would not grow tall enough to become a world-class jumper. Mr. Sun Haiping, already a prominent hurdles coach in China, saw Liu running the hurdles at the Shanghai Sports School No. 2. "I did not project too far, but I thought, 'He fits the hurdles.' His rhythm was very good," Sun says.

Then, if not for Sun's persistence, Liu's career would probably have come to a halt. His parents withdrew him from the sports school and enrolled him in regular school. Sun lost contact for a couple months before approaching Liu about resuming training and returning to the sports school full time. A meeting was called with Liu's parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts." Over 20 of them," says Sun, 50, who spends more time with Liu than with his wife and college-age daughter. "There were big discussions. All of them didn't want him to come back. They wanted him to continue at full-time school. "Then Liu Xiang's father said, 'OK, it's settled. He should go to the sports school.' "The next day he was sent. I promised his father two things. First, I'd make sure Liu grew up as a good man of virtue. Second, I would make sure to improve his performance."

In August 2001, at 18, Liu launched his career in fine style by impressively making the semifinals at the World Championships with a personal best of 13.32 seconds. That same month, just before he left for the 21st World University Games in Beijing,  tragedy struck. His grandmother was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas. Liu was overwhelmed by the grief, but his emotions were also mixed with a burning desire to repay his grandmother's love. This debt of the heart enabled the then 18-year-old to win the 110m hurdles, a milestone in his career and a message to the world that a champion was emerging. Mr. Liu Xuegen, Liu Xiang's father, vividly remembers the day his son arrived home from the Games. "He rushed to the hospital immediately after getting off the train. He gently propped up his grandmother, tenderly hung the gold medal round her neck, and held it so that the medal would not become too heavy for his ailing grandmother," Liu Senior recalls.

Two months later, Liu was claiming his second major win at the 9th National Games in Guangzhou, a city in southern China. A day before he was due to return home, he received news that his grandma had died during the Games. Though she had been ill for some time, her death still came as a shock for Liu. Devastated by deep sorrow, Liu swore that from then on, he would do his best to win every competition.

 In 2002, Liu raced to victory in the 110m hurdles at the IAAF Grand Prix in Lausanne with a World Junior and Asian record time of 13.12 seconds, breaking Renaldo Nehemiah's 24-year-old World Junior record. The following year he earned a bronze medal at the World Championships in Athletics in Paris and projected himself as a medal contender for the 2004 Olympics, although he was not considered a favourite for the gold. However, in the final, Liu's technique was nearly perfect as he barely touched the sixth hurdle and cleared all of the others cleanly. He powered to an emphatic victory of almost three metres and tied the 11-year-old World record of 12.91 seconds held by Colin Jackson. At the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki Ladji Doucouré of France edged past Liu to win gold, but Liu's second place is still the best result yet by a Chinese male athlete at World Championships.

This year, Liu skipped a number of major competitions due to injuries and re-adjustment and won only twice before his recording-breaking performance in Lausanne. He made perfect debut in 2006 with success at the Osaka Grand Prix on May 6. His second major title came one month later at the Prefontaine Classic in the United States.

Then came the miracle Liu promised less than two years ago in Athens. As his legs pumping with flawless precision to clock a World record time of 12.88 seconds at the IAAF Super Grand Prix meeting in Lausanne, Liu Xiang consolidated his status as world's fastest hurdler.

Liu Xiang then went home to China to take part in the national championships in August, and only returned to Europe for the World Athletics Final, where he ran a scorching 12.93 on the track where Colin Jackson had set the World record which Liu Xiang first equalled then claimed for himself alone. The Chinese hurdler now owns 3 of the top 10 all-time performances over the high hurdles.

In China, Liu has become a popular pitchman. He adorns outdoor advertising boards — promoting ing everything from cigarettes and soft drinks to clothing — and can incite a near-riot by appearing in public. Liu is a millionaire who shares a two-bedroom suite with his coach at a Shanghai training centre. Liu's agent, Mark Wetmore, says Liu keeps about 70% of his track earnings and more than 70% of his endorsement fees. The remainder of the money goes to the national track federation and Shanghai sports system that has nurtured him since he was about 12. Back home, Liu is beloved for his natural persona, in marked contrast to most of China's other elite athletes, who can only offer their fans canned statements about how much they love their motherland.

China has won more than 100 Olympic gold medals since 1984. But nothing could compare to Liu's triumph. It was Liu who received the lion's share of the spoils - and the pressure to top that performance when the Olympics come to Beijing that goes with it.

Progression: 1999 – 14.19 ; 2000  – 13.75 ; 2001 – 13.32 ; 2002 – 13.12 (WJR)  ; 2003 – 13.17 ; 2004 – 12.91 (WR=) ; 2005 – 13.05 ; 2006 – 12.88 (WR)

Career highlights

1st  110mH  World University Games        Beijing, China

1st 110mH  Asian Championships          Manila, Philippines 
1st 110mH  Asian Games                   Busan, South Korea

3rd 110mH  World Championships          Paris, France 
3rd   60mH   World Indoor Championships    Birmingham, England

1st 110mH  Olympic Games                Athens, Greece. 
2nd  60mH   World Indoor Championships   Budapest, Hungary

2nd 110mH  World Championships         Helsinki, Finland  

1st  110mH  World Athletics Final  Stuttgart, Germany

Prepared by Xiaoxian Yan for the IAAF Focus on Athletes project. © IAAF 2006.