Tuesday, August 19, 2008

olympics mystery

Yesterday in Beijing, much of the Olympics buzz revolved around Liu Xiang withdrawing from the 110m hurdles.

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? :)"


Reto said...

I'm curious about the "cab driver" pick of option (c).

To my eyes the idea put forward there seems highly unlikely. He'd rather not compete than risk not winning? I don't see it. He was never a sure thing. Any insight into why do people think this might be the case?

Frankly b, c, and d seem incredibly unlikely for an olympic athlete. Normally if you see athletes breaking under the pressue you see them perform badly rather than pull out.

I say (a). A world class athlete suffering from a recurring injury pulled out at the last moment when he realized he could not compete with his injury.

kemps_on said...

I think that he's been injured for months or years but they has said LiuXiang is fine, but this time his coach with that faaakkkeee tears tells he is telling a story, not the truth.
LiuXiang's act made him still being a hero in most Chinese's heart.
In the following years, he'll turn into a officer rather than still running in the fields.

Jeremy said...

I'm kind of leaning towards (c) as well because that was the theory I put forward when you mentioned him a few posts ago. He hasn't "raced" since the Prefontaine Classic and there it looked like he purposefully false-started so that he wouldn't have to run. In Beijing, it looked like he purposefully false-started...

I have a hard time believing he was able to get close to the WR in practice with a sore Achilles'. If your Achilles' tendon is sore, you're going to have a hard time walking and I doubt you're going to be able to push off hard enough to propel yourself over hurdles at breakneck speed.

The dude is/was under incredible pressure. Let's say he's completely healthy and "only" wins the bronze. Most of his countrymen would say that he failed while the rest of us would be pretty stoked that we're demonstrably better at something than all but two people in the world. I think he was given a gold or bust speech sometime last year and he's cracked under pressure.

Anyhow, I hope that he's alright mentally and physically.

Anonymous said...

It is C or D.
He false started twice and was disqualified in the Oregon Greg Fountain track meet few months ago. He knows that he was going to lose at that time. So he quitted by false starting.

This time, at the warm ups with cameras rolling, he kept on hitting his ankles for the camera.

He knows that he won't get into the finals whether he is injured or not. So why be criticized for losing during the heat.

If he is really injured, he should really just try. If he is unable to walk afterwards, people would love that he sacrifice for the nation. Imagine the great outpouring of love for him, if he loss but he is crippled.

Wei said...

Or e) He was in no condition to compete and he wasn't going to anyways. But he has to at least show up once to pacify the fans who paid 2K+ USD to watch his race (and the rest of the 1.3 billion chinese people), who would have otherwise be outraged if he just drop out without even showing up. This is a good way to get sympathy :)

ArC said...

"If he is really injured, he should really just try. If he is unable to walk afterwards, people would love that he sacrifice for the nation."

Yeah, for maybe a month at best, and maybe a few weeks around every future summer Olympics. But on the other hand, he'd be crippled year-round for the rest of his life. Remind me never to take your cost-benefit analyses, Anon.

zuomin said...

(e) LiuXiang is just a kid.Far from been a qualified athlete.
Quit simply because don't feel very well. What a child!
A good athlete can conquer death, let alone a little injury.

Anonymous said...

He is still the most handsome man in China, I am sure he will have a prosperous life ahead of him.

randell said...

Hahaha @ Dan

Sascha said...

f) an assurance company presentet an assurance to him, saying that they will pay 20 million if he get's injured and wouldn't be able to run -> Fact

then we come to point d). He wasn't able to handle the pressure and thought 20 million would be better than a silver medal or not winning.

The insurance company is right now analyzing whether they have to pay or not...

Anonymous said...

a) for sure. I have a friend who's dad happens to be in his medical team.
Another truth's that most people tend to believe consequences with great impact must come from some serious seamless planning. Nothing this simple would work that big.

How hilarious to watch people debating back and forth just by imagination.