Liu Xiang: I'm taking the pressures of fame all in my (longer) stride

On The Road To 2012: Postcard from Shanghai

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The Independent Online

Wherever I go in China, the people recognise me. Many, many people know who I am. There are two aspects to it, as there are to everything. I cannot say it is good or not good. On the one hand, I am very famous and I enjoy that fame. It is nice to be recognised. On the other hand, of course it has its problems. I cannot go where I want sometimes, so that's not so good.

It is the same in England. I was in Birmingham last week, running the 60m hurdles in the Aviva Grand Prix. There are always many Chinese people wherever you go in the world and most Chinese people know me. I enjoy meeting them, saying hello and having photos.

Wherever I go, people always want to ask me about the Olympics in Beijing. I won the 110m hurdles gold medal in Athens in 2004 but in Beijing I got an achilles injury and couldn't finish my race in the heats.

Of course it was a sad time for me four years ago but what happened was really not so special. Every athlete has injuries in his or her career. I prefer to think about the future rather than dwell on things that have happened in the past.

I never lost my confidence. I trained very hard and came back. I won the silver medal at the World Championships in Daegu last summer. I finished third but Dayron Robles of Cuba, who won the race, was disqualified for clashing arms with me.

I always describe that incident as "a beautiful accident." The 110m hurdles outdoors and the 60m hurdles indoors are intensely competitive events. Anything and everything might happen. In Stockholm on Thursday I was disqualified for a false start.

I have changed my technique, taking seven strides to the first hurdle instead of eight. I have had to change the way I put my feet in the starting blocks. It is a process that takes time. It's like a right handed person suddenly changing to use the left hand. It's not so easy.

It was good to run in Birmingham last week. I won a bronze medal there at the World Indoor Championships in 2003, when I was still a teenager. It holds happy memories for me and it was good to win last week and to get an Asian and Chinese record, 7.41sec.

Dayron finished second there and won in Stockholm. It is a healthy rivalry. We have been good friends for many years and the competition has been good for both of us. It has brought the best out of both of us.

People ask me about the pressure on athletes competing at a home Olympics, like the British athletes will face in London this summer. It is important not to think too much about the result. Just try to do every training session well and think about the process that gets you there, rather than what the result might be.

Of course every athlete would like to be the champion but to be an Olympic athlete at all is a very good achievement. I think athletes should realise that and try to be happy and enjoy the competition.

For me, looking ahead to London, the main thing is to stay healthy and to get in step. I'm just thinking about making it to the final. Then,if you're in the final, anything can happen.