Athens, 24 August 2004, Games of the XXVIII Olympiad. Men's athletics: Liu Xiang of China competes during the 110m hurdles at the Olympic Stadium. Credit: Getty Images/Clive Brunskill
Born: 13 July 1983
Birthplace: Shanghai (China)
ATTENDANCE AT THE OLYMPIC GAMES
Chinese Track Breakthrough
As a child, Liu Xiang was a high jumper until 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. He began training as a hurdler in 1998. In 2002 Liu broke Renaldo Nehemiah's 24-year-old world junior record for the 110m hurdles. The following year he earned a bronze medal at the World Championships of Athletics and stamped 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 a victory of almost three metres. In so doing, he tied the 11-year-old world record of 12.91 seconds. Liu was the first Chinese man to win an Olympic gold medal in athletics. Only 21 years old at the time of his victory, Liu vowed to defend his title when the Olympics come to Beijing in 2008.