Wednesday 8 August 2012
Last Update 10 August 2012 6:10 pm
LONDON: China’s Liu Xiang left the Olympic stadium in a wheelchair yesterday after hitting the first barrier in a 110 meter hurdles heat while Jamaican Usain Bolt breezed through an “easy” 200 qualifier in his favorite event.
The contrasting fate of two of the world’s most famous athletes made for a striking opening to the 11th full day of competition in London, where Britain celebrated a 21th gold to make it the hosts’ most successful Olympics in 104 years.
(Click here to see the medal standings)
Liu’s dreams of glory, however, were shattered in a cruel echo of his early exit from Beijing four years ago and indications were that it was the same Achilles injury that led to his fall on a cool, cloudy morning in London.
China’s first male gold medallist on the Olympic track after triumphing in 2004, Liu remains his country’s most popular sportsman alongside former basketball player Yao Ming.
Fans at home quickly took to social networking websites to voice their dismay.
“My heart is broken,” wrote one on Chinese microblogging service Sina Weibo. “I had been awaiting this race with such expectation.”
Fellow athletes expressed their sympathy for Liu.
“It is really hard for him because I think he is one of the best hands down,” Bolt told reporters.
“He has shown the world he can do great things. For him to push himself and come back last year ... for this to happen, this is really sad for any athlete.”
Bolt, who set the second fastest time ever in his weekend 100 triumph, brimmed with confidence after comfortable qualification for the 200 semis before another capacity 80,000 crowd at the main stadium.
He remains on course for an unprecedented Olympic sprint “double-double” at tomorrow’s final. Kenya’s Kiprop, the world’s fastest man over 1,500 this year, will have one thing on his mind in London — to win properly.
The world champion has often expressed his dissatisfaction at taking Olympic gold in Beijing after Bahrain’s Rashid Ramzi was stripped of the title for a doping offense.
Algeria’s Taoufik Makhloufi, who beat Kiprop in Sunday’s semifinal, was provisionally thrown out of the Games for not trying hard enough in an 800 heat on Monday but was later reinstated.
Home nation Britain surpassed the heroics of four years ago, when they picked up 19 golds, by amassing 21 and counting.
Triathlete Alistair Brownlee crossed the line in central London’s Hyde Park draped in the Union flag to make it 19 before Britain’s riders triumphed in the dressage arena at Greenwich Park. Laura Trott then took another gold in the cycling track omnium.
Brownlee’s younger brother Jonathan was third in the gruelling triathlon, making them the first siblings to feature on the Olympic medal podium together in an individual event for more than 50 years.
“Team GB” could add to the haul in the velodrome, where power cyclists Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton are looking to cement the hosts’ dominance at the boisterous venue.
That would strengthen Britain’s third place in the overall medals table in London, success which has helped fuel huge Games excitement across the country.
By 1630 on Tuesday, China led the overall medals table with 34 golds after picking up two in the gymnastics. Deng Linlin beat her compatriot Siu Lu to the balance beam title an hour after Feng Zhe had won the parallel bars title.
Flying Dutchman Epke Zonderland caused an upset, however, by claiming the horizontal bar title ahead of Chinese favorite Zou Kai who could only manage bronze.
The United States was second with 30 golds, including 16 in swimming.
Elsewhere yesterday, Dutchman Dorian van Rijsselberghe became the last ever men’s RS:X windsurfing champion at the Olympics, with the event being replaced by kiteboarding in 2016 at the Rio de Janeiro Games.
Marina Alabau Neira of Spain won the women’s title, while also on the water, but in a very different event, Italian kayaker Josefa Idem made the final aged 47.
The first woman to compete in eight Olympic Games is aiming to add to her gold from Sydney, two silvers from Beijing and Athens and bronzes from Atlanta and Los Angeles.
“I don’t care about age,” a smiling Idem told reporters after powering past a field of 20 and 30-year-olds in the semifinal. “The stopwatch doesn’t ask.”
Canada’s soccer players were less happy, accusing Norwegian referee Christiana Pedersen of bias toward the Untied States after their dramatic 4-3 extra-time defeat in the soccer semifinal on Monday.
Pedersen took the rare step of penalyzing Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod for holding the ball too long.
“We feel like we got robbed in this game,” McLeod said.
Late on Monday, Cameroon’s ministry of sports and physical education said seven athletes had disappeared while in Britain for the Olympics.
The five boxers, a swimmer and a soccer player may have vanished to seek a more prosperous life in Europe, but the International Olympic Committee said on Tuesday it was not aware of the incident.
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