China · Sports

By now, Liu Xiang’s exit in the 110m hurdles has been shown and written about all over. Liu, the 2004 gold medalist, hit the first hurdle and went down immediately unable to continue. He limped off the track to the exit, but then changed his mind and went back alongside the track and hopped to the finish line. This was almost a repeat of 2008 when Liu wasn’t even able to start the race. Liu Xiang was a trailblazer, being the first Chinese man to win an Olympic track event. Before Li Na, before Sun Yang, both of whom also were Chinese sports trailblazers, there was Liu Xiang. He’s probably still the only Chinese, maybe even East Asian, medalist in Olympic track event. I was quite sad as well, though not as much as many Chinese, but I was heartened by the reaction from these same fans. Instead of reacting with anger and vitriol, many Chinese were sympathetic and supportive, a big change from 2008 when Liu faced a lot of criticism. Liu, you carried the hopes of an entire nation of over one billion and regardless of the outcome, you are an inspiration and a true Chinese pioneer. Here’s to either a dignified retirement or a successful comeback.

On the other hand, there’s been growing concern over China’s strong focus on winning golds and the huge burdens and pressure on Chinese athletes. There’s a draconian element to it, especially with the role of the state in the athletes’ training and the single-minded dedication of many athletes, not that this doesn’t exist elsewhere including in the West. Many Chinese are aware of this and have been speaking out on it, with even state newspapers having their say. I was surprised to read about Li Ning, the famous gymnast who has his own brand, receiving hate mail at his home after a medal-less Olympics in 1988.

Well, days after complaining about the sheer number of stray dogs in Taipei, I saw this story and realized maybe, just maybe, it’s not so bad in Taipei. More than just nuisances, strays in Delhi have been terrorizing the streets, sending multitudes of people to hospitals to seek treatment for bites.

And to counter the critical news and opinions of Taiwan, here’s one good thing about Taiwan, though only for some people.

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