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Liu looks to test recovery at East Asian Games

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Chinese champion hurdler Liu Xiang will test his recovery from a foot injury that forced him out of the Beijing Olympics last year when the athletics competition at the East Asian Games gets underway Thursday.

Liu became a chest-thumping source of Chinese pride when he won gold and tied the world record in the men's 110-meter hurdles at the Athens Olympics in 2004, prevailing in an event normally elusive to Asian athletes.

Millions were eagerly waiting to see him repeat on home turf in Beijing four years later - only for him to walk away from the starting bocks with an injury to his right Achilles' tendon before his first heat.

The 26-year-old had surgery in Houston last December and has competed in only three races since.

At the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix in September, he tied with American Terrence Trammell with a time of 13.15 seconds but was placed second in the photo finish. In October, he clocked 13.34 seconds in his winning run at China's National Games. In November, he won at the Asian Athletic Championship in Guangzhou in 13.50 seconds.

But those times are still far off from the world record of 12.87 seconds held by Cuba's Dayron Robles and his personal best of 12.88 seconds. His winning time in Athens was 12.91 seconds.

He won't need to push hard to win in Hong Kong on Friday, with his closest competition, South Korea's Park Tae-kyong, finishing third behind him in Guangzhou. But Chinese fans and fellow competitors will be watching closely for an indication as to whether he can get back to his best.

Liu arrived in Hong Kong on Wednesday. He did not take questions from reporters at the airport, but Hong Kong's Commercial Radio quoted Liu's coach, Sun Haiping, as saying Liu's foot is recovering well.

In other track and field events, China is expected to dominate along with Japan. The two countries won 18 and 12 golds respectively in Guangzhou. Forty-six golds are up for grabs in Hong Kong.

Besides Liu, China is also fielding men's 400 meters Asian champion Liu Xiaosheng and men's long jump Asian champion Li Jinzhe. Japan is sending Yuki Nakata, the silver medalist in the women's heptathlon in Guangzhou.

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