SHANGHAI, May 14 (Xinhua) -- The Dunlop Shanghai Golden Grand Prix on Sunday will be of special importance for Chinese 110 meter hurdler Liu Xiang. It will not only be his first outdoor event in the 2011 season but also the first time for him to test his new seven-step technique in an official race.
The Chinese athletics icon has been working on taking seven, instead of eight steps, to the first bar, which is a technique employed by many high level hurdlers including American star David Oliver and Cuba's world record holder Dayron Robles.
The first three to five hurdles has always be a short point for Liu Xiang, whose Achilles tendon injury had forced him to give up the chance of defending his title at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Although the 2004 Olympic champion has enjoyed a slow but steady comeback since 2009, Liu still could not return to his peak when he set a world record of 12.88 seconds in 2006 before Robles renewed it to 12.87 in 2008.
Liu decided to switch to seven steps after he came back from the indoor tournaments in Germany early this year.
"I considered this a challenge to myself. I plan to take seven steps to the first hurdle instead of the previous eight. Actually, this is not a new technique. My fellow hurdler Li Tong, in the 1990s, used seven steps to the first hurdle. I just want to try, because a lot of hurdlers are using this technique," said Liu in a Saturday's press conference ahead of the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix, which is the second of 14 meetings of the 2011 IAAF Diamond League.
"I do not do very well in the first half of the 110 meter hurdles. What I want to focus on is the speed in the first three to five hurdles. I know that David (Oliver), and Dayron (Robles) used to take eight steps to the first hurdle, and they changed to seven steps, maybe starting two years ago. I just took longer to realize that it might work better, but I just want to make a try."
"Considering that I am quite tall, I feel a little bit uncomfortable with eight steps as I have to control every step, and some of the steps will be quite small," said the 1.89-meter Liu.
However, giving up the eight-step technique, which he has been used to since he start hurdling training as a teenager, is not an easy thing. And the 27-year-old decided to keep a low profile before his first real test.
"I don't expect this technique to bring me much improvement in my performance. It's just a challenge to myself," Liu said. "I met some difficulties. I had to make a change. I am so accustomed to the eight steps, that when I use the eight-step technique, I don't have to think. Now in competitions, I have to be very focused."
"It's been less than three months since I tried the new technique. There is no such theory to prove that seven-step is definitely faster than eight. As far as my current results go, in the first three hurdles using the seven step technique, it takes longer than I did at my peak. It's just a try. "
During Sunday's race, Liu will face tough challenge from American star Oliver, the world's hottest 110m hurdler last year, after he enjoyed a successful season by winning the IAAF/VTB Bank Continental Cup as well as six Diamond League races to share the Diamond Prize. The 29-year-old renewed his personal best to 12.89 seconds in Paris last July.
Talking about the coming clash against Oliver, Liu still choose to play down his expectation.
"My biggest expectation for tomorrow is to keep up with the pace of David. If I don't lag too much behind him, the result of my performance won't be too bad. I haven't thought of overtaking him tomorrow," said Liu.
However, Oliver has kept a calm mind in front of Liu's compliments. "He's already got enough skills. He's been where I'm trying to go already. He's got gold medals and world records, and stuff like that. That's something I haven't achieved yet," said Oliver.