Four years of hope gone in an instant as injury strikes the stars of track and field
21:30 GMT, 7 August 2012
Never does the four-year Olympic cycle seem more brutal than when injury prevents an athlete from being the best he or she can be.
Chinese 110metres hurdler Liu Xiang and Britons Goldie Sayers and Andrew Pozzi will know just how cruel that is after an emotional morning in the Olympic Stadium on Tuesday.
In 2008, Liu, then the defending Olympic champion, carried the hopes of a nation into the Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing.
First flight chaos: Pole Artur Noga stops while Liu Xiang and Bajan Shane Brathwaite crash out
Body says no: GB stars Goldie Sayers and Andrew Pozzi both saw their Olympic dreams crushed by injury
But he didn’t even make it to the first hurdle, limping off after a false start with acute pain in his right achilles tendon.
Four years on, the former world record-holder attacked those 42-inch barriers with a different leading leg, but the result was the same. The 29-year-old was even wearing the same number – 1356 – as he clattered into the first hurdle.
His fellow competitors were waiting for him as he hopped to the finish line, trying to protect the tendon that had ruptured once again, and kissed the final barrier in lane four.
‘It was horrible to see him limp off like that so I had to go to help him,’ said Britain’s Andy Turner, who won Liu’s heat in 13.42sec. ‘I regard him as the best hurdler in history and I have so much respect for him.’
Britain’s Lawrence Clarke will join Turner in the semi-finals on Wednesday night but Pozzi, the British champion indoors and out, did not even make it to the second hurdle of his heat, having suffered a torn hamstring last month.
The end: Liu Xiang has been desperately unlucky with injuries, twice having had his Olympics cut short. In London, he bid a moving farewell to the sport he should have dominated
‘I came out of the blocks and it went again,’ said the 20-year-old. ‘I’ve really struggled but I didn’t want to walk away. My whole season has been based on this.’
Sayers, too, saw her attempt to qualify for the javelin final thwarted by injury. The 30-year-old tore ligaments in her right elbow, her throwing arm, after breaking her own British record on July 14 and said she couldn’t feel her hand after suffering a further injury in the warm-up.
She registered three no-throws then broke down during a BBC interview.
‘I’m sure people are criticising me for competing, but I had to give it a go,’ she said. ‘I had to compete in a home Olympics but my body just let me down. I’ll put this right. Hopefully I can do the country proud in Rio.’