Star athletes looking for career renaissance
When China’s star hurdler Liu Xiang arrived in Daegu Thursday for the 2011 Daegu World Athletics Championships, the determined-looking runner left the airport without taking any questions from a large media horde, a telling sign that his focus is on resurrecting his career.
Some of the top-tier athletes will not be competing in the world track and field meet in the southern Korean city.
But like Liu, Daegu is now home to several athletes, who saw once flourishing resumes suddenly fade through injury, slump or scandal, with hopes to make the world championships the stepping stone for a career revival.
The 28-year-old Shanghai native burst onto the
A sore foot forced him to pull out of the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and his times have been hovering around the mid-to-high 13s after surgery.
Last year, Liu provided a glimpse of his old self, topping the Asian Games on home soil with 13.09 seconds. With a newly-devised running form, he is seeking to reclaim the world title
Another sporting star with renewed resolve in Daegu is Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia. The 29-year-old star pole vaulter has been facing an unfamiliar situation in recent years.
Isinbayeva, who has set 27 world records and is the only female to clear 5 meters, has two Olympic gold medals and boasts as many golds at the world championships.
However, she fell back to earth after missing a podium position in the previous world championships in 2009 and had to settle for fourth in last year’s world indoor championships in Doha.
Isinbayeva took an 11-month break beginning in March 2010 and has reunited with her former coach to try and fly high once again.
She won the star-studded Diamond League in Stockholm, Sweden in July with a modest 4.76 meters, raising doubts over her resurgence, but she is confident of her return to the top in Daegu.
“I want to win the 2011 world championships, the 2012 Olympics, and, of course, set more world records,” Isinbayeva was quoted as saying by AFP.
“I definitely aim to compete in Korea and avenge a two-year-old defeat in Berlin.”
Ethiopian long-distance runner Kenenisa Bekele, who ruptured a calf muscle last year, is trying to claim gold in the men’s 10,000 meters for the fifth consecutive time since 2003.
Sprinters disgraced by drug use are returning to the track.
American sprinter Justin Gatlin, the 2005 world champion in the men’s 100 and 200 meters, was suspended four years in 2006 after testing positive for a banned substance.
With Usain Bolt of Jamaica and compatriot Tyson Gay emerging as new sprint icons, the 29-year-old Brooklyn native was considered past his prime by critics.
With Gay battling a hip injury, however, Gatlin, who returned to the athletics circuit in August last year, has stepped forward once again.
“I definitely don’t want to sit in the stands eating popcorn and watch other guys run,” Gatlin, who once held a world record of 9.77 seconds, said during a press conference in Daegu.
“I am hungry. I have a sensational appetite to go out there and run my heart out. Just to feel that I am here, I feel blessed.”
Britain’s Dwain Chambers and LaShawn Merritt of the United States are also seeking redemption here.
Chambers, 33, received a two-year ban in 2003 for using the prohibited substance THG, while Merritt, a double gold medalist in Beijing, served a 21-month ban for failing a doping test.
The U.S. squad has lost some medal-favored members to injuries.
Jeremy Wariner of the United States, a two-time world champion and 2004 Olympic champion in the men’s 400 meters, will sit out at the biennial event after ending his season early due to a foot injury, while Gay, seen as able to mount a challenge to Bolt, was ruled out by a hip injury that forced him to withdraw from the U.S. national trials in June.
Reigning world high jump champion Yaroslav Rybakov of Russia will miss the championships, also because of a foot injury.
Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia and Paula Radcliffe of Britain, who holds the men’s and women’s world record in marathon, will not run in Daegu because they plan to participate in the Berlin Marathon, scheduled for Sept. 25.
Gebrselassie won the event for four straight years from 2006 to 2009.