China's single greatest hope for the Olympics is over. The highlight of the games was supposed to be hurdler Liu Xiang defending his gold medal on home soil. But Liu suddenly dropped out of the qualifying heats after an injury. His surprise exit left fans stunned and tearful.
He had entered the Bird's Nest to a hero's welcome. But as he crouched down in the starting blocks, he was clearly in trouble. He grabbed his knee and grimaced.
When the gun went off, for the 110-meter hurdles, he limped out of the blocks. It was a false start. But it was obvious Liu was hurt. Then, before the next start, he walked out of the stadium.
At a news conference later, Chinese coaches were in tears.
They said Liu had reaggravated an old injury to his right foot and Achilles tendon.
Feng Sha Yong, general coach of China's athletic team, said Liu was devastated. He also noted that Liu had a lot to live up to as one of China's top Olympic stars.