7 August 2008 :If the Olympic Games were being held anywhere other than China this year there would be no doubting which event would be top of the bill when it comes to the track and field programme. Surely there can be nothing to match a 100 metres race featuring three of the only four men to have run under 9.80sec?
Hopes of a nation
But mention the name Liu Xiang, China’s first-ever male Olympic athletics champion, and strange things happen in the People’s Republic. He is quite possibly the most famous man in the country and the mere sight of him in public can cause a commotion. The Shanghai-born 25-year-old won the 110m hurdles in Athens in 2004, but he will be under pressure this time from Cuba’s Dayron Robles, who snatched the world record from Liu this summer.
Meanwhile Jamaica’s Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay of the United States will be seeking sprinting’s equivalent of the holy grail. Down the years the 100 metres title has been taken by some of the most legendary names in sport, including Jesse Owens in Berlin in 1936 and, in Mexico City in 1968, Jim Hines, the first man to break the 10-second barrier. More recently Carl Lewis won it twice on his way to his record-equalling nine gold medals.