China's Most Famous Olympian Liu Xiang Crashes Out Of His Second Straight Olympics

Hurdler Liu XIang, China's most prominent and popular Olympian, failed to overcome the first hurdle in his 110m heat this morning in London, bringing an end to his Olympics just as his attempt to reclaim his 2004 gold began.

Liu dropped out of his medal defense in Beijing with an achilles injury, and it appears a leg injury was to blame for his faltering in today's hurdles heat. His importance to the nation of China cannot be overstated; he's one of the most commercially successful athletes in that country, and is ever-present on billboards and advertisements in China. Our own Tom Scocca's book Beijing Welcomes You remarked on the athlete's transcendence there as sporting and marketing icon; now he's done, again.

Liu ran a wind-aided 12.87 (which is the current world record) earlier this year, so his chances at recovering gold were solid. Instead, fellow competitors helped the hurdler to a wheelchair after Liu limped to kiss the race's final hurdle. [Watch the video here.]