TOKYO: Liu Xiang hasn't let the disappointment of the Beijing Olympics dampen his determination to return to the top in the men's hurdles at the world athletics championships.
"He carries the weight of an entire country on his shoulders and that is great pressure he has to live up to and he does a great job," Oliver said. "I still feel he is a top level hurdler and a favorite for gold in Daegu. His resolve to stay strong and get back to the top of the event is commendable."
Given his ups and downs in recent seasons, the 28-year-old Liu takes a cautious outlook when discussing his chances in Daegu.
"You never know what will happen until you run the race," Liu said. "I'm excited about running in the world championships and feel good about my chances, but you never know."
When Liu won the gold medal in Athens, equaling the then world record of 12.91 seconds, he described his performance as a game changer. Not only did it bring China its first men's Olympic gold medal in track, he said it could change the perception of Asian athletes in the sprint events.
Liu ran 12.95 to become the world champion for the first time in Osaka, Japan, in 2007.
The victories in Athens and Osaka, and his world record run of 12.88 seconds in Lausanne in 2006, raised hopes for a repeat victory on home soil at the Olympics.
The injury forced Liu to miss the 2009 world championships in Berlin, where Ryan Brathwaite of Barbados took top honors with a time of 13.14.
Liu made his much-anticipated comeback at the 2009 Shanghai Golden Grand Prix in September, recording a time of 13.15 to finish second behind Terrence Trammell.
Later that year, Liu would win gold at the Asian Championships, the East Asian Games and the 11th Chinese National Games.
At the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, Liu took another step forward, easily winning his third consecutive title at the continental competition and breaking the competition record in 13.09 - the third fastest time anywhere that season.
His personal best of 12.88 is still the second-fastest time in history, behind Robles' 12.87 in Ostrava, Czech Republic, in June 2008.
Robles, meanwhile, showed no signs of any lingering effects of an ankle injury when he ran 13.04 to win at Crystal Palace on Aug. 5 with his best time this year. Oliver, the only man to go under 13 seconds this year, placed third in that race in 13.19.
Oliver says Liu's technique and drive to be perfect are what makes him one the greatest competitors in the event.
"He is as close to perfect hurdling as you can get," Oliver said. "He doesn't make many mistakes and has very strong technique."