DAEGU, South Korea - Three years after his sudden withdrawal from the Beijing Olympic Games, China's star hurdler Liu Xiang regained honor after dramatically taking silver at the IAAF World Championships in Daegu on Monday night.
The 28-year-old flag-bearer of the Chinese athletics could have the chance to repeat his title-winning feat in Osaka 2007, but the hand contact with Dayron Robles of Cuba disturbed his rhythm before Liu finishing third in the breath-taking final.
Robles hit the finishing line first in 13.14 seconds but was disqualified of his mark and the title for disruption of the event after the Chinese team made an appeal.
The silver was awarded to Liu who clocked 13.27 as his blistering pace slowed down after the hand contacts with the neighboring Robles.
The medal for US emerging star Jason Richardson who ran in 13.16 was changed from silver to gold.
In spite of missing the chance to step on the top podium, Liu believed he had proved his competitiveness and recovery, both physically and mentally, from the nightmare-like injury that forced him out of the Beijing Games.
"I felt like someone touched my elbow and I lost my balance for a while but then I managed to recover" said Liu.
"It happens all the time in the competitions. I am OK with everything that happened today and this is a legacy to me. I tried my best (and got) no regret."
Liu also noted he didn't care much about the color of the medal.
Liu winced in pain and limped off the track during the men's 110m hurdles first heat at the Beijing Games, leaving the 60,000-plus spectators at the Bird's Nest stadium and millions of home audience watching in front of television in shock.
But Liu claimed one day after his withdrawal that he would run even faster when he fully recovered from the tendon injury. And in the following three years he gave himself all out trying to carry out his words.
After a 13-month absence during which he received a surgery on his right Achilles tendon in the United States in December 2008, Liu returned to competition in style by finishing second in 13.15 at the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix on September 20, 2009.
From then on, the 2004 Olympic champion continued to claimed titles in the Chinese National Games and the Asian Championships in 2009, as well as the Asian Games in 2010.
After clocking a decent 13.09 seconds to win the gold medal at the Asian Games in Guangzhou, the still confident but more mature Liu set his eyes on the worlds and Olympics.
"I am still not in my best shape," he said. "There is still room to improve. I hope I can run within 13.00 next year, and I have full confidence about that," said Liu. "I think I can win a gold medal in London (Olympic Games)."
Striving to return to his peak form, Liu adopted to a new technique of approaching the first hurdle with seven steps instead of eight this season, which proved effective in his recent races.
He beat American David Oliver with a winning time of 13.07 seconds to claim the title in the Shanghai Diamond League this May, the first race after he switched to the new technique. And Liu clocked his after-injury personal best of 13.00 at the Prefontaine Classic meeting in Eugene in June.
Now with the World Championship silver in hand, Liu should be more confident. He has shown his quality in his first Championship final clash with world's top runners - Robles, this year's fastest man David Oliver of the United States, and the rising star Richardson.
If Liu could make good use of the one year time left ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games to improve his new technique and keep away from further injuries, the rise of a reloaded and maybe even faster Liu in London will not be a "mission impossible".