Friday, December 11, 2009
Return of Liu Could Spice Up the Hurdles
After thirteen months of rehab It looks like Liu Xiang could be fully recovered from his Achilles injury. If he is indeed 100% and back to normal, the 110 hurdles could give the sport another super rivalry to showcase.
Prior to his injury, Xiang was as dominant a force as the event has seen. Twice a WR setter in the event and the first man under 12.90 (12.91, 12.88), he has Olympic (Athens '04) and World (Osaka '07) golds to his credit prior to his injury.
Ironically the man that should be his chief rival, Dayron Robles, has somewhat mirrored his accomplishments of late. In '07 Robles broke through to the sub13 ranks with a sterling 12.92 - equaling Liu's '07 world leader. In the Olympic season with Liu on the shelf injured, Robles broke Liu's WR by .01 with his 12.87. He followed up by going to Beijing and won gold in 12.93 - Liu won his in 12.91! Finally, this year, while Liu was rehabbing, Robles suffered through injuries of his own - leading to a World Championships final without either athlete on the track.
So we head into 2010 with history's two fastest hurdlers looking to return to their best form. In an off year with nothing on the line but egos, and a new Diamond League offering plenty of potential showcase opportunities!
Not only that, but both athletes have a history of competing indoors. Liu won World Indoor gold in '04 & 08 and has an indoor best of 7.42 over the 60 meter barriers. To his credit, Robles won Indoor silver in '06 and is #2 all time indoors at 7.33. With both looking to regain form and potentially get a jump on the outdoor season, fans may not have long to wait to see these two super hurdlers in action.
Add Terrence Trammell (7.37 indoors) another frequent indoor competitor - having set his PR just earlier this year - and the hurdles have the potential to take center stage this indoor season. Especially given that the top headlining sprinters tend to avoid the indoor season like the plague.
But it will be outdoors where the fireworks should get hot. As both hurdlers, especially Liu, are very fast over the second half of the race. Getting them on the track together will create potentially exciting races and fast times.
Historically Zurich (5), Stuttgart (4) and Athens (3) have produced the most sub13 performances. While the three sub 12.90 performances to date have come in Ostrava (12.87), Lausanne (12.88) and Paris St Denis (12.88). However, Robles and Liu seem to be able to put down fast times anywhere. Of the 41 sub13's ever run they have a dozen between them (Robles -7, Liu -5). Only Allen Johnson, with an incredible 11, had more throughout his career - Colin Jackson also had 5. I would expect to see both close in on Johnson this year.
The bottom line: the men's high hurdles should be one of the year's best events with history's two best hurdlers going head to head - and both looking to prove something to themselves and each other! Keep an eye on these two. Both are fierce competitors. And being the top athletes in their country's there is also a degree of national pride on the line when they run. This should be another of those can't miss events.