Liu Xiang [Xinhua]
The organizers of the 2016 Olympic Games welcomed Liu Xiang to come to Rio de Janeiro and to enjoy the Games as a fan after the Chinese Olympic hurdles gold medalist announced retirement on Tuesday.
"Rio Olympics will be very sad not to have Liu Xiang as an athlete," Mario Andrada, Rio 2016 director of communications, told Xinhua through telephone.
"We just hope that he can come and visit us. Enjoy Rio and enjoy the Games even if he comes as a fan. Even as a fan, he is someone that we cannot miss."
Liu became China's first male Olympic champion in athletics when he won the 110m hurdles at the 2004 Games, equalling Briton Colin Jackson's world record of 12.91 seconds. Three years later he won a world championship gold in Osaka, Japan.
Liu bettered the world record to 12.88 seconds in Lausanne, Switzerland in July 2006. Aries Merritt of the United States is current world record holder in 12.80.
At the 2008 Beijing Games, Liu limped off in a first-round heat with an aggravated Achilles tendon injury following another runner's false start.
Four year later at London Olympics, Liu Xiang pulled out of competition again for a similar claimed reason.
"Liu's retirement is a huge loss for the sport. He is one of the greatest athletes of his times and the symbol of his fans and his country," Andrada said.
"Besides Liu, China still has plenty of stars at the Olympic platform. Take the dominance of their badminton and table tennis teams for example. I'm sure that China will have a good performance during the Games."
As the first Olympic Games in South America, the Rio Olympic Games will be held between August 5 and 21 next year.
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