Liu Xiang starts season with a win

The world record holder wins his pet event in Osaka.

    Liu Xiang warms up for Beijing [AFP]

    World record holder Liu Xiang of China coasted to victory in the 110-metre hurdles at the Osaka Grand Prix, his first outdoor race of the season.

    Running in rainy and cold conditions at Nagai Stadium, reigning Olympic gold medalist and world champion Liu clocked a time of 13.19 seconds to finish well ahead of compatriot Shi Dongpeng, who had a time of 13.63.

    It was Liu's fifth straight win at the Osaka event.

    "Given the rain and the cold, I'm satisfied with the result,'' Liu said through an interpreter.

    "I've always enjoyed running here and it's good to start the season off with a win.''

    Jamaica's Maurice Wignall was third in 13.84.

    Big chance of gold, bigger expectations

    Liu is China's best hope for athletics gold this summer at the Beijing Olympics.

    After Osaka, Liu is set compete in two more races in May, the Olympic test event in Beijing on May 22 and the Reebok Grand Prix in the United States on May 31.

    Liu took control of Saturday's race after the second hurdle.

    His main rivals Cuba's Dayron Robles and Americans Alan Johnson and Terrence Trammell did not take part.

    American David Oliver clocked a winning time of 12.95 on Friday night in Doha, 0.07 off Liu's world record.

    It made him the eighth quickest man in the event's history.

    When asked about Oliver's performance, Liu had nothing but praise for the American.

    "It's good that he was able to produce such a good result,'' said Liu.

    "To break 13 seconds is not an issue with me and I can do it if the conditions are right. For every athlete, the issue is to do your best at high-profile events.''

    Liu said after Saturday's race that avoiding injury in the wet conditions was key.

    "The most important thing is not to get injured,'' said Liu.

    "I was able to relax and run a good race.''

    Liu has said he's in better condition physically than he was four years ago in Athens, where he equaled the then world record of 12:91 seconds to win gold.

    Liu said he will spend the two months after the Reebok Grand Prix event training in Beijing.

    Walker wins pole vault

    Elsewhere, world champion Brad Walker of the United States won the pole vault with a leap of 5.40 meters while compatriot Russ Buller was second with 5.30 meters.

    "In an Olympic year you want to jump as high as possible to give yourself confidence,'' said Walker.

    "But with the conditions today I decided it was best not to push things.''

    American Carmelita Jeter won the women's 100 with a time of 11.30 while China's Hu Kai took the men's 100 in 10.54.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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