Liu breaks 110-meter hurdles world record

Updated: July 12, 2006, 4:03 AM ET
Associated Press

GENEVA -- Liu Xiang refused to listen to everyone who said he'd never become a world-class athlete.

Now, he's a world-record holder.

China's Liu set a world mark in the 110-meter hurdles Tuesday, breaking the record he shared with Britain's Colin Jackson. Liu's time of 12.88 seconds at the Athletissima Grand Prix meeting was .03 better than the record he matched in winning gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

"I can't believe it, I can't express it," Liu said through a translator. "I had a good start and after the first five hurdles, it was a perfect race.

Liu was a high jumper back in fifth grade when he was advised to give up sports after a bone test revealed he would remain too short to become a world-class athlete. He became China's first sprint Olympic gold medalist in Athens, and topped the mark he shared with Jackson, who ran 12.91 in Stuttgart, Germany, in August 1993.

"I wanted to break the record last year, but it wasn't working," Liu said. "I think I can still run even faster."

Liu, who switched from the high jump to hurdles in 1998, has always done well on this Pontaise track.

"It is my place of good luck and joy. I always feel so good here," the Shanghai-born sprinter said. "It's great. I can't believe it, I've beaten the world record again here. I already beat the junior world record here.

"Thank you, Lausanne. It's wonderful. It's crazy."

On this track in 2002 -- running in the B race for lack of space in a star-studded main event that included Jackson, four-time world champion Allen Johnson, and then-Olympic champion Anier Garcia -- Liu clocked 13.12, toppling Renaldo Nehemiah's junior mark that stood since 1978.

The following year, he won a bronze medal at the world championships, establishing himself as a medal contender for the 2004 Olympics in Athens, though perhaps not for the gold.

However, Liu delivered a near-perfect performance in the Athens heat, winning by almost 3 meters to tie Jackson's world record.

Liu is one of China's most famous -- and marketable -- sports stars, ranking third behind NBA basketball star Yao Ming and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" actress Zhang Ziyi on last year's Forbes list of top Chinese celebrities.

Since the Olympics, though, he has rarely come close to his record time, clocking a 13.08 to take silver at the World Championships in Helsinki last year.

And only last Saturday, Liu struggled to a fourth-place finish in Paris.

Liu ran a victory lap Tuesday night, shirtless and flailing his arms before climbing to sit on the red metal clock on the field that showed his record time.

Dominique Arnold of the United States was second in 12.90, which was also faster than the previous record. American Terrence Trammell placed third in 13.02.

Later, American Xavier Carter ran the second-fastest 200 of all time. The 20-year-old Carter clocked a stunning 19.63 in the 200, beaten only by American Michael Johnson's world record 19.32 at the Atlanta Olympics in August 1996.

"Michael Johnson was a great runner and with this time, I know I'm right up there," Carter said.

American Marion Jones continued her winning ways, leading a U.S. sweep of the top four places in the women's 100 meters. Jones won in 10.94, ahead of Me'Lisa Barber who was second in 11.03. Torri Edwards was third in 11.07 and Lauryn Williams fourth with 11.13.

Jones ran her fastest time in nearly four years at the Gaz de France meet in Paris on Saturday, beating Jamaica's Sherone Simpson and Torri Edwards with her time of 10.93 seconds -- her best since giving birth to her son in June 2003.

"I thought I'd be able to run under 10.90 after Xiang's record," Jones said. "I'm glad to have won. I have to improve some technical details and I think I can do it before Rome. The 100 meters is a question of rhythm, not fitness. I'll be back."

Olympic and world champion Yelena Isinbayeva posted another world best in the pole vault, soaring 4.90 meters. The Russian had been looking to break her own world record of 5.01 meters, but missed three attempts at 5.02.

American Michelle Perry posted a season-best time of 12.43 in the women's 100-meter hurdles, edging compatriot Damu Cherry by .01. Brigitte Foster-Hylton of Jamaica was third in 12.49.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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