Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang, the first man from his country to win an Olympic gold medal in track and field and a former world-record holder, announced his retirement Tuesday due to injury.
“I have to leave you right now, although I hate to give up,” he said on his official Weibo account, the “you” referring to hurdling. “I am really ‘old’ and ‘sick.’
“I want to start a new journey. I will end my professional sports career and formally retire from today.
“This is an informed decision … I have no other choice.”
Last week, Shanghai newspaper Xinmin News reported that Liu would indeed formally hang up his boots Tuesday, and his public declaration makes him the third recently retired Chinese superstar athlete after former NBA player Yao Ming and tennis champion Li Na.
Liu said that he plans to finish his education to enrich himself, engage in anything beneficial to the development of Chinese youth physical education and the improvement of national health, and foster Chinese influence on track and field internationally.
A Shanghai native, the 31-year-old Liu trained as a high jumper initially but switched to hurdling.
The move paid off.
Liu first made it to the world stage in 2001 by winning the 110-meter hurdles at the East Asian Games and World University Games. He also reached the semifinals of the World Championships that year.
His greatest victory came at the 2004 Athens Olympics when Liu easily won the 110-meter hurdles and tied Colin Jackson’s 11-year-old world record with a time of 12.91 seconds. He became a sensation in China.
Liu went on, hitting his career peak at the 2006 IAAF Grand Prix meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland by setting a new world record of 12.88 seconds. A year later he won his maiden world championship gold in Osaka.
While Liu kept making waves around the globe, he was increasingly plagued by an Achilles injury, which culminated in him pulling up in a false start in a heat at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It left his home audience dumbstruck.
Although he returned after a 13-month recovery, Liu failed to clear the first hurdle in the heats at the London Olympics in 2012.