Chinese fans shattered

Chinese sports fans were left reeling on Tuesday after former Olympic champion Liu Xiang crashed out of the 110 metres hurdles heats at the London Games, a haunting echo of his injury-induced withdrawal in Beijing four years ago.

The 2004 Olympic champion and former world record holder hit the first hurdle with his lead leg and tumbled to the ground before being helped from the track with his dream of regaining the title shattered.

Chinese quickly took to the Twitter-like microblogging service Sina Weibo to lament Liu's failure. "My heart is broken. I had been awaiting this race with such expectation," wrote one user on Weibo.  "That's it for his career," wrote another.

His fall made the evening news on staid state broadcaster ‘CCTV’, which usually only reports on the country's Olympic triumphs. "Since withdrawing from the Beijing Olympics, injury has been Liu Xiang's biggest difficulty," state television noted.

Some microbloggers expressed frustration but most were sympathetic to Liu, whose failure at Beijing made many Chinese question the country's uncompromising pursuit of Olympic glory. "There are still a number of hurdles to leap for Liu Xiang. Let's encourage him.”

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