Liu Xiang captures hearts and title on amazing night
Shanghai (September 17) -- On an electrifying night of pure drama, Olympic champion Liu Xiang won the men’s 110 metres hurdles to cap a great night of athletics at the 2005 Shanghai Golden Grand Prix on Sunday night.
Liu eased past great American rival Allen Johnson at the last hurdle to capture the main event of the evening after surviving three false starts in a nail-biting affair before a near capacity crowd.
“I had a tremendous sense of relief when I crossed the finish line. The pressure has been lifted off my shoulders,’’ said 22-year-old Xiang, who had the crowd erupting in pure joy following another victory similar to his phenomenal success in Athens last year.
“It was a hard race. I am so happy. I managed to stay focused despite all the pressure on me. I felt I had to win in my home town. It’s great I have won again,‘’ said the Chinese hero, who clocked 13.05 seconds.
Johnson, who led the field until Liu eased past him on the final hurdle, finished second in 13.20 seconds, while China’s Shi Dongpeng was third in 13.40 seconds.
Johnson was disappointed that he didn’t win the race but took his hat off to Liu for a job well down.
“I felt I was going really well in the first 75 per cent of the race. I clipped the last hurdle and slightly twisted my ankle. But Liu won a great race,’’ said Johnson.
The race began in dramatic fashion when American Dominique Arnold was disqualified for a second false start and the race finally got underway after Dutchman Marcel van der Westen jumped the gun for a third false start.
Liu overcame all the tension and drama to win one of his career’s finest races that will be remembered by all who witnessed the great race.
Russian pole vaulter also earned one of the biggest cheers of the night when she won her event with a leap of 4.65 metres. The Olympic champion had tried to break her world record of 5.01 metres but came well short.
“I felt very tired and I couldn’t break the record tonight but I will try again and I am sure I will do it,‘’ said the Russian star.
The night began with a surprise when Chandra Sturrup of the Bahamas upset world champion Lauryn Williams in the women’s 100 metres, winning in 11.02 seconds.
Williams tried to overtake Sturrup, but failed in her attempt as she clocked 11.05 seconds while American Melisa Barber was third in 11.22 seconds.
World and Olympic champion Justin Gatlin had no such problem when he won the men’s 100 metres as expected. The Brooklyn-born athlete blew his rivals away to win the race in 10.01 seconds ahead of compatriot Leonard Scott, who finished in 10.09 seconds and Portugal’s Francis Obliquely, who came home in 10.11 seconds.
Meanwhile, world record holder in the 10,000 metres, Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia, made good his promise that he would record a fast time in the 3,000 metres after holding off the challenge of his younger brother, Tariku, to win in 7: 36.36. “It was a tough race and the conditions were hot. But I am glad I won. I am glad my brother finished second,‘’ said Bekele, the Olympic champion in the 10,000 metres.
Olympic and world champion Tonique Williams-Darling of the Bahamas also shone on a hot and humid night in the women’s 400 metres.
The elegant Williams-Darling outclassed the field to win the race in 50.25 seconds. “It was a good race for me. The track was very fast. I think we were all tired for the season so no 49s (seconds) today but my time of 50.25 is good,’’ said Williams-Darling. “It was a nice solid evening run to the line. I felt I had a nice easy run. I am looking forward to coming back to this competition.‘’
Williams-Darling easily beat American Dee Dee Trotter, who clocked 50.90 seconds and third placed Monique Hennagan of the US, who came home in 50.92 to continue her domination of the event.
Christopher Williams of Jamaica edged Christian Malcolm to win the men’s 200 metres in 20.24 seconds. Williams powered to the line ahead of Britain's Malcolm, who came home in 20.42 seconds. Marlon Devonish, also of Britain, was third in 20.55 seconds. “I’m definitely satisfied with my performance. The crowd was absolutely amazing. To come here to Shanghai was amazing and I’d love to come back. I can’ t want to defend my title,’’ said Williams.