x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Liu Xiang's free pass to Guangzhou comes under fire

China's athletics bosses take criticism for allowing 110m hurdler Liu Xiang to skip the national trials for November's Asian Games.

BEIJING // China's athletics bosses have come under fire for allowing 110m hurdler Liu Xiang to skip the national trials for November's Asian Games and still take a place in the team. The former Olympic and world champion has competed in just six races, five of which were inside China, since an Achilles injury force him out of the 2008 Olympics. The Chinese Athletic Association (CAA) has changed its qualification rules to give "former top six Olympians" a place in the team, allowing Liu to attempt to win his third straight Asian Games title in Guangzhou.

"While the others are involved in a fierce struggle for a place, Liu goes through without even the slightest effort," said a commentary in the China Youth Daily newspaper. "It is an offence to other athletes rather than protection for Liu. Where is the spirit of fair play?" The CAA argued that Liu would not be the only one benefit from the new rules. "The change was not only for Liu's sake. We want to guarantee the best athletes going to the Asian Games," CAA vice director Feng Shuyong told the Beijing News.

The 27-year-old Liu underwent an operation on his foot in late 2008, but was still not yet fully fit, according to his doctor. "We do not want to interrupt Liu's recupration and training schedule. We want him to focus on preparing for his third Asian Games title," Feng added. The November 12-27 Asian Games would be Liu's only remaining competition for the rest of the year, his coach said last month.

* Reuters