Liu's Future: Comeback Kid or Fading Star?

The Hurdler's Injury May Hurt More Than His Sports Career

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Chien Hwang
Chien Hwang
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Liu Xiang's shocking decision to pull out of the qualifying heat for 110 meter hurdles event was big news. In the hours afterward, China won three more gold medals, but Liu Xiang remained the primary topic of discussion and speculation. It literally changed the mood of the games here in China.

As I write this, China is ahead of the U.S. by 17 gold medals, while the U.S. leads in the total number of medals won. But it seems like Chinese are all about the gold. No one talks about the silver and bronze medals.

What China is proving to the world is that it can win. It can win big. It can also handle losing. But can Chinese swallow the fact that Liu Xiang, an athletic god in China, is a mere human being?

After all, Yao Ming is playing in the games even though he recently had an operation on his foot. Guo Jingjing won gold medal in diving even though her wrist hurt. Countless other athletes are competing with less than perfectly fit bodies. Who's to blame here? The coach wept as he made his case. Was it the coach's fault? Did Liu's doctors screw up? Did he train too hard? Is this all a cover up? Or is he simply human?

The best test will be if his sponsors like Coca-Cola, Visa and the Chinese dairy Yili will stand by him and wait for him to get well again. And if they do, will consumers continue to adore him and buy products he has endorsed?

Plenty of marketers and pretty much all Chinese people love Liu Xiang, the champion athlete.

But it's too soon to tell if they are ready for Liu Xiang, the man.

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