Full recovery expected following successful surgery on Liu's right foot

HOUSTON -- Doctors expect former world and Olympic champion hurdler Liu Xiang to run again after he had surgery Friday in Houston for a foot injury that forced him to withdraw at the starting line during the Beijing Olympics.

During an hour-long surgery, the 25-year-old Liu had four small pieces of bone -- ranging in size from a pea to a navy bean -- removed from the Achilles' tendon in his right foot, said Dr. Thomas Clanton, who performed the procedure at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center in Houston.

"We felt he did very well through the surgery," he told reporters at a news conference. "It was exactly what we had anticipated finding. His prognosis of running in the future is quite good."

Liu, the 2004 Olympic champion and former world record holder for the 110-meter hurdles, had developed bone spurs between the Achilles' tendon and ankle bone.

Clanton said the injury happened over a period of time, resulting in microscopic tearing of the tendon's fibers, which caused bleeding. This process produced calcium and resulted in the bone pieces forming within the tendon itself.

Clanton, who operated on Houston Rockets center Yao Ming's injured foot earlier this year, said he anticipates Liu will fully recover. Clanton is also the Rockets team doctor.

Liu was in good condition and expected to be released from the hospital on Saturday. He is China's most successful short event track athlete.

Sun Haiping, Liu's personal coach, said the track star's coaches first hoped to heal the injury through non-surgical treatments, including traditional Chinese medicine and deep massage.

"If we wanted to put him back in competition and training, it would not have happened without surgery," Sun said through a Chinese interpreter.

Yao recommended Clanton for the surgery, Sun said. Yao and Liu, who are both from Shanghai, are good friends, he said.

Feng Shuyong, China's track and field coach, said they wanted to minimize any surgical risk to Liu and they trusted that Clanton would do a good job.

"When we saw Liu Xiang coming back to the room [after surgery] and what he told me about how it went, it was a really big relief. We are very happy with this successful surgery," he said.

Clanton said Liu can already walk and he will begin his rehabilitation in several weeks. Liu will for now stay in Houston during his rehabilitation process, which could take up to six months.

"We are not trying to rush him back to training or practice or anything," Sun said.