Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Patriotic Duty

Hurdler Liu Xiang made an appearance at the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) today in Beijing.

He had just flown back to Shanghai earlier in the week after having surgery and rehabilitation in Houston for three months.

When he arrived in his hometown of Shanghai, Liu was whisked away and didn't say anything to reporters. His handlers had said he would be busy with his rehab and training and wouldn't have time to attend the CPPCC meetings.

However, last night word got out to the media the athlete would be in the Chinese capital to fulfill his patriotic duty and so this morning he was swarmed by reporters and cameras at the Great Hall of the People.

Dressed in a black shirt and black blazer, Liu admitted he was a bit nervous attending his first-ever meetings -- he became a member of the CPPCC last year -- but was training for a competition at the time.

While there is talk of him gearing up for the World Championships in Berlin in five months and even competing in the 2012 London Games, one can't help but think Liu's track days are just about over.

My colleague who is his number one fan thinks while Liu may physically be up to it, after removing calcium deposits from his right Achilles tendon, psychologically he's still scarred from disappointing the home crowd at the Beijing Olympics.

With so much at stake, the entire country expecting him to win gold in the men's 110 m hurdles, and then knowing you may not be able to do it, it's hard to break the news to 1.3 billion people.

The chances of Liu competing again are slim, and his coach Sun Haiping may make as many excuses as he can for his top star to keep the suspense going, possibly for more lucrative endorsements.

While he's still a hot commodity, Liu's popularity has faded somewhat and he could retire as early as this year.

He has lived a fishbowl existence for several years, training on his own, his coach as his only companion. Not even his parents get to see him often.

Perhaps it's time to let the 26-year-old live a somewhat normal life and let the next Liu Xiang take his place. He's done his patriotic bit for the country.

No comments: