What the hell did we watch? Why didn’t someone help Liu Xiang up? Why was he left hopping around on one foot like an inspirational failure?
Liu Xiang was in the sixth heat of the preliminaries in the 110-meter hurdles, and on his first leap his left foot collided with the hurdle, sending him down. He landed awkwardly, tumbled and tumbled, and the CCTV commentators emitted a scream and then went speechless for the next five seconds. One of them bravely managed the words, “Fallen to the ground,” and then they let the runners who were on their feet cross the finish line without noting their existence or saying one goddamn word as if a half-deity had been assassinated and his blood was now pooling next to his beautiful evergreen body and turning the rubber MondoTrack black while the children of gods gouged out their eyes in disbelief.
And then one of the commentators totally lost perspective and began breathing hot and heavy into the microphone and sniffing and crying. HUH??? Grow a fucking pair, man. Liu Xiang is not your long-lost father, and he’s not DEAD. You didn’t see his foot fall off on live television. He doesn’t tickle you to sleep. He doesn’t feed you ambrosia from his teat. He sure as hell never saved your kitten’s life, or even knows whether you do or don’t have a kitten. He’s a fucking hurdler, for chrissakes — and one that didn’t try nearly as hard as this guy. PERSPECTIVE.
Liu Xiang, 29, sat holding the back of his right ankle, looking around like a lost boy. Twice he got on his knees and tried to get up, and twice he could not. When absolutely no one in the stadium gave a shit about him — we know this because no one went to help him, as if they weren’t supposed to go and help him – Liu Xiang began hopping around on his left foot (GOD!) and went to the tunnel, and then … wait for it … THEN HE CAME BACK OUT. Fuck the hell?
And then he hopped on one foot out to the 10th and final hurdle and gave it a kiss, and that was actually a really sweet moment.
Hurdler Balazs Baji of Hungary raised Liu’s hand, and that was weird, but the crowd went with it and clapped politely. Finally, Liu Xiang sat in a wheelchair, just sat there, not being wheeled away.
And then the CCTV histrionics, the fucking histrionics. I can’t begin to describe to you the things I purposely made myself not hear. “Goodbye Liu Xiang,” the commentator said as his sign-off. Huh? Okay, goodbye. Goodbye? Goodbye. Goodbye! Goodbye. LORD OF FUCKS.
Sports Illustrated reports:
“It was just terrible for that to happen to one of the best hurdlers of all time. It was just a tragedy. I hope he’s OK,” said U.S. hurdler Aries Merritt, who won his heat in 13.07 seconds, the best qualifying time.
“In the hurdles, if you hit a hurdle, to recover is almost impossible. Everyone here is so great – this is the Olympic Games. Everyone here is here to compete. It’s just a shame that it had to happen to Liu. I was looking forward to competing against him.”
That it had to happen to Liu? What’s with the passive voice? Did the hurdle fucking leap from its foundation and tackle Liu Xiang?
You know what didn’t help? The endless promos in the hour before the heat, featuring the rather awful call of his 2004 victory in Athens (in Chinese: “Liu Xiang! Liu Xiang! …He’s won!”). That did not exactly set the appropriate tone. That did not make me any less ready to be angry.