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Event report: Men's 110m Hurdles Final

The next year is going to be very demanding of Liu Xiang, the tall young man with the expectations of the world's most populous country on his slender shoulders. A taste of what might be to come in the build-up to and during next summer's Beijing Olympics was there to be seen here in Osaka tonight, with an entire section of the stand beyond the finish line taken up with chanting, red flag-waving Chinese supporters.

Even the coolest of customers can find it affecting: "I was a little bit nervous at first," Liu conceded. "After my silver in Helsinki two years ago", when Ladji Dacoure, of France, had pipped China's first male Olympic track champion to the gold by the narrowest of margins, "I had to win the gold."

Liu ensured he will go to the Beijing Games not only as the world record-holder and the host nation's best chance of an athletics gold, but also as the reigning World champion - and nothing, it seems, not even the concerted pressure of the best that the rest of the world has to offer, fazes the 24-year-old once he gets going.

Liu was drawn in lane nine for this final, right up against the main stand, with the Jamaican Maurice Wignall to his immediate left. The big threats, Dayron Robles, of Cuba, and Terrence Trammell, the American, were in lanes four and five.

That was as far as Liu's rivals were able to get from him, though he seemed a little slow to get into his full stride. Wignall alongside him was matching him in rising to the first three flights, and the unheralded American, David Payne, in lane seven, was keeping pace, too.

Robles, the hottest threat after beating the Olympic champion in the semi-final, was not at the races this time around, and he struggled to keep pace with Trammell who, at the fourth flight, looked like he might have the edge on his Chinese rival.

In reality, Trammell didn't stand a chance. After what he conceded was a poor start, from somewhere, deep within himself, Liu summoned up some extra effort and awesome speed, so that off the final flight, he half turned his body - partly in curiousity, partly in bravado - to see his rivals over the last 10 metres, yelling in triumph. Liu must be the only World champion in Osaka to have seen his event finish before watching it on TV.

Despite his dreadful form at the finish, Liu still clocked 12.95, beating Trammell by 0.04sec, while Payne - who only knew he would be racing here two days ago - set a PB 13.02 as he out-ran a disappointing Robles (13.15).

Sergiy Demdyuk (UKR; 13.22) in sixth and Jackson Quinonez (ESP; 13.33) in seventh both set national records.

Liu was jubilant once across the line, skipping around the finish area and shouting for joy before giving the routine interviews. He pulled on one of his sponsor's T-shirts which had a slogan in Chinese script across the chest for the TV cameras. It may have read "I've just done it".

Certainly, Liu's self-confidence had not been damaged by his first World title. "There's nothing I can't do," he said.

"Now I will have even more pressure than before," he said, anticipating his next 12 months, "but this is something I will need to get over."

Osaka 2007 News Team/sd