Liu Xiang became the first Chinese man to win a track athletics gold medal in Olympic history when he won the 110 metres hurdles in Athens, a victory which caused excited hysteria in China.
He has instantly become one of the most famous sporting faces in China and is now one of the host nation’s emblems for the Beijing 2008 Olympics. Never having broken 13.0 secs before, he clocked a stunning 12.91 secs to equal the world record set by Britain's Colin Jackson in 1993.
Born in Shanghai, his family wanted him to study computer engineering, but Liu wanted to be an athlete. "I told my mother that I would compete in the Olympics one day,” he said. The turning point came in 1998 when coach Sun Haiping spotted Liu and persuaded him to concentrate on the 110 metres hurdles.
After only three years, Liu launched his career in style in the IAAF Grand Prix in Lausanne in 2001 by breaking the world Youth and Asian record with a time of 13.12 secs. In the next two years he won titles at the Asian championships, the World University Games and the Asian Games.
The first warning that Liu Xing was going to be a very special athlete came in 2003 when he won a bronze medal in the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham and a bronze in the outdoor World Championships in Paris. Learning all the time, in 2004 Liu was stronger and more confident and he won the silver medal in the World Indoor Championships in Budapest in March, before his Athens triumph in the summer.