Guangzhou, China – Liu Xiang lived up to the soaring expections of a demanding nation on Wednesday by winning a third successive Asian Games 110m hurdles crown.
Liu, who became China's first Olympic track gold medallist when he won at the 2004 Athens Games, immediately stated that he wanted to recapture Olympic gold at the 2012 Games.
The Chinese hurdler's victory at the Aota Main Stadium, in 13.09 seconds, finally put to bed the shockwaves caused by his calamitous outing at the 2008 Beijing Games, when he limped out of his qualifying heat with an ankle injury.
That nagging problem, subsequent surgery and rehabilitation came under much scrutiny in China and the multi-millionaire hurdler put things right in his second meet of the year on home soil.
“I didn't expect to run 13.09 because I am not yet back to a very high level,” said Liu, setting his sights first on the 2011
world championships in Daegu, South Korea, and the London Games a year later.
“I believe I can (win gold in London) but of course a lot of other factors will be in play.
“It's easy to say I can, but of course I will have to prepare very hard for the gold medal.”
In front of 80,000 baying fans and with an estimated domestic television audience of an almost unfathomable 600 million, Liu was in total control of the race.
The former world record holder (12.88sec) led from start to finish, clearing each of the 10 1.067-metre-high hurdles with aplomb to come in a massive 0.29sec ahead of compatriot Shi Dongpeng in silver.
“We are very proud to add a gold and a silver medal for the Chinese team,” added Liu, who, with Shi, delighted the crowd by throwing their singlets into the stands.
Liu's gold took to three of a possible four on offer to be won by the host nation.
Li Caixia's 4.30m was good enough to win the women's pole vault and Su Xiongfeng denied double defending champion Hussain al-Saba of Saudi Arabia a third title with a best of 8.05m in the long jump.
The fourth medal event of the evening saw Iran's Ehsan Hadadi defend his discus title with best of 67.99m.
Qatar's Nigerian-born Femi Ogunode, who won gold in the men's 400m here on Monday, looked in great form when clocking the fastest time of 20.58sec in heats for the men's 200m.
But there was more woe for teammate Samuel Francis, who was hot favourite for the 100m but was disqualified after a false start.
The sprinter, also from Nigeria but now competing for the Gulf state, was in total control of his heat before tying up in the final 20 metres and staggering across the line in third (21.16sec) clutching his right hamstring.
But another foreign import who looks a class apart on the track, Bahrain's Ethiopian-born Maryam Jamal, remained on course for the middle-distance double after qualifying for Thursday's 800m final with ease.
Jamal, the double world champion in the 1500m, won the 1500m title on Tuesday and will be the woman to beat when she tries to repeat the double she achieved at the 2006 Asiad in Doha.
Jamal's Kenyan-born teammate and reigning world men's 1500m champion Yusuf Saad Kamel, who crashed out of the 1500m heats here citing injury, did not start the men's 800m heats.
Kamel was engaged in a public spat with Bahraini athletics officials after the 1500m heats, whom he accused of having forced him to run despite knowing about the injury.
Finally, Kazakhstan's Dimitriy Karpov will go into the second day of the decathlon on 4,245 points and in firm control, 224
points ahead of South Korea's Kim Kun-Woo. – Sapa-AFP