The official story is that an old Achilles heel injury flared up two days ago.
Liu's coach Sun Haiping, who broke down in tears at a news conference yesterday, told CCTV that the sprinter had suffered a recurrence of an Achilles' tendon problem by ``pushing too hard'' when practicing starts on Aug. 16. His right ankle bears the brunt of the push from the starting blocks.
Liu said he had run a time of 12.90 seconds in practice two weeks ago -- the world record is 12.87 seconds. Attempting to run yesterday might have caused lasting damage, he said.
``If I tried to pull through, my Achilles' tendon would . . .'' he said. ``I really couldn't make it, as much as I wanted to. I couldn't describe my feelings at that moment. Do I really want to pull out of the first heat of the games? But that's the way it is.''
Most articles reporting on the injury mention the great mental stress Liu endured, from the nation's expectations. As I see it, the potential scenarios were:
a. Exactly as the official story claimed. Liu Xiang was in peak condition, but by sheer bad timing, his Achilles heel injury flared up at the last minute.
b. His injury was aggravated by the pressure. Had he not been so stressed, he would've recovered in time to race, or the injury might not have flared up at all.
c. His injury was not bad enough to cause withdrawal, but it reduced his chances of winning. Rather than face a heightened prospect of losing, he withdrew instead.
d. He wasn't injured at all. He cracked under the pressure and concocted a story about the injury.
After watching the interview with Liu Xiang and his coach, I don't think (d) is possible. The international media is presenting (a) but Beijing cab drivers seem to think it's (c).
If you have an analysis, post a comment! Unless your view on the Olympics is similar to my friend Dan.
Me: "What do you think of this Phelps legendary streak? It is pretty impressive!"
Dan: "I hear there's some athlete winning some medals, is that what you're talking about? :)"