Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang, whose rock-star status had made him his nation's favorite Olympic storyline, dropped out of his first race today after just two painful steps, the Washington Post reports. Liu had recovered from a hamstring injury since pulling out of a May 31 meet in New York, but an Achilles tendon injury reemerged last week, and his sudden departure devastated the Chinese.
Liu tried to compete in the 110-meter hurdle, but hobbled out of the gate and was called for a false start. That wouldn’t have disqualified him, but the runner instantly tore off his numbers and limped to the tunnel, reports the AP. Afterward, his coach was in tears. “[Liu] couldn't imagine the pain,” he said. “Let me repeat: Liu Xiang will not withdraw unless the pain is unbearable.”