Chinese Olympic hurdler abandons London base to escape cold weather

Gold medallist Liu Xiang, who was due to train in Twickenham, is said to have relocated to Düsseldorf in Germany

The Olympic hurdler Liu Xiang has proved as quick in fleeing poor weather as he is over the hurdles, abandoning his British training camp in London due to the cold, Chinese media have reported.

The gold medallist appears to have done what many in the UK long to do, escaping the British summer in search of sunnier climes – as have other Chinese athletes, his coach claimed.

Liu arrived in London late last week and was due to train at St Mary's University College in Twickenham, where members of the South African, Japanese and Irish teams are also preparing.

But days later he turned around and headed to Germany instead, the Xinmin Evening News reported.

"Due to the low temperatures in London many Chinese athletes and other sports teams have chosen to look for other training bases. Liu Xiang is not the only one," his coach Sun Haiping said, according to the newspaper. It added that St Mary's did not have an inside track.

Most of the Chinese team are training in Leeds, but the newspaper said there were too many people there and conditions were not suitable for Liu. Düsseldorf was chosen for the broadly similar climate and minimal time difference to the UK and because he has trained there before. He will return to Britain in early August.

Liu became a national hero as the first Asian man to take gold in an Olympics track event, winning the 110m hurdles at Athens in 2004.

But at the Beijing Games he stunned and disappointed his compatriots by pulling up injured before he had reached even the first hurdle of the opening race, shocking spectators into silence.

He quit the Diamond League final in London on Friday because of a back injury, but his coach said he had pulled the athlete out for the sake of caution and that Liu would "fight to the end" in the Olympics.

A spokesman at the State General Administration of Sport in Beijing said staff had read news of Liu's move but could not comment, as the body had little contact with athletes while they were in Europe.

St Mary's has yet to respond to requests for comment.

It is unclear whether Liu's new base will be an improvement; this week's weather forecast for Düsseldorf looks much the same as that for London.

Wu Feng, a coach for the track team, told the Xinmin Evening News that the weather would not pose a problem for Liu when it came to the actual event. He pointed out that the hurdler's impressive performance in Eugene, Oregon, in June – which appeared to equal the world record, but was disallowed due to wind assistance – came on a rainy day.


Tania Branigan in Beijing

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