On the Newsweek blog, Jonathan Ansfield interviews the editor of the Chinese edition of Sports Illustrated about superstar hurdler Liu Xiang’s withdrawal from the Olympics and the skepticism among some that he dropped out for reasons other than an injured Achilles’ Tendon:
Q: If Liu’s injury was real, why would he and his coaches and federation feel such pressure?
The pressure, direct or indirect, came from all sides: from the country, from the sponsors, from the officials and coaches, as well as from his own personal desire for success. We feel that all these factors combined bore down upon him.
Q: A lot of people still don’t believe that he was as badly hurt as he appeared. Was it the pressure, or the pain, that caused him to pull out?
Liu Xiang definitely would have run if he could. But China has some very strange history here. Back in 1962, the ping pong player Han Yuzhen was facing a big match in Japan. But she suffered a deep cut in her left hand and had to pull out. She claimed a Japanese attacker broke into her hotel room [and wounded her]. But then it was discovered that she took a knife to her own hand. Why? She did it because was afraid she was going to lose and bring shame upon the nation [On returning home Han was banished to reeducation through labor on a farm; she was persecuted during the Cultural Revolution and died of cancer in 1979, aged 38] Today the times are completely different, but Liu Xiang is under just as much pressure. This is just an ordinary injury. But it’s become a major event for society.
Q: Liu Xiang is not just an ordinary star.
Of course. He’s conscious of that that. He’s got something like 14 different sponsors. If he were just an ordinary sports star, it would have been easy for him to say, “I’m injured and I’m not racing.” It seems the most innocent thing. But for him it’s a scandal.