China

Liu Xiang: The highs and lows of China's hurdling star

China's star hurdler Liu Xiang has announced his retirement from athletics at the age of 31.

Liu became a sporting idol at home after winning China's first ever male track and field Olympic gold medal, but recurring injury meant he crashed out of two further Games.

Here are some of his career highs and lows in pictures.

Full story: Liu Xiang: China's former Olympic 110m hurdles champion retires

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Liu first came to prominence in 2001 with first place finishes at the East Asian Games in Japan and China's Universiade and National Games, and a place in the semi-final at the World Championships in Canada.

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After bronze medals at 2003's IAAF World Indoor Championships and World Championships in Athletics, Liu went on to take 110m hurdle gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics - China's first male Olympic gold in track and field.

His gold medal brought him fame and fortune at home and placed huge expectations on his shoulders.

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In 2006, Liu was living up to the promise he showed in Athens. He set a new world record in the 110m hurdles with a time of 12.88 seconds, and in August 2007 he won gold in Japan to become World Champion for the first time.

But in May 2008, he was forced to pull out of New York's Reebok Grand Prix with hamstring problems. He turned his attention to training for his home games in Beijing that summer.

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Defending champion Liu was China's best, and possibly only, hope for gold medal success at the Beijing Games 2008. His picture was everywhere, from billboards to sides of stadiums.

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But ahead of his first round heat at the games, Liu appeared to be suffering.

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The heat was cut short by a false start from another athlete, but instead of returning to the starting blocks Liu tore off his race number and walked away. An old injury to his Achilles tendon had flared up. The crowd were stunned to silence and his coach reduced to tears.

Liu faced months away from racing while he recovered.

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Liu returned to some success after 2008 - notably gold at the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix in 2011 - but disaster followed at the London Olympics in 2012. His Achilles injury returned and he crashed out at the first hurdle.

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Liu's head trainer, Feng Shuyong, said at the time: "At the moment of take-off, the tendon would bear very, very big pressure. He could not make the movement."

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Liu picked himself up and hopped all the way to the finish line, helped by fellow competitors. He kissed the last hurdle before being put in a wheelchair.

"Seeing him hopping to the line shows the true spirit of the Olympics. He was still determined to go to the line," said his trainer.

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Despite being held back by his injuries, Liu achieved huge popularity in China and made millions of pounds from sponsorship deals with the likes of Nike and Coca-Cola. He was mobbed by journalists at China's all-party political conference in March 2015.

Liu announced his retirement on 7 April on Weibo - China's equivalent of Twitter - saying: "I'm retiring. I want to start a new journey. Though I still have hot blood pumping through my heart, my leg has time and again told me no."

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