SHANGHAI - With a world fastest time of the season so far, Chinese star hurdler Liu Xiang showed the world that he is back to the world top level.
In spite of running on a wet track, the 28-year-old Liu claimed a overwhelming victory against three American first-class hurdlers at the 2012 Diamond League Shanghai on Saturday.
The Athens Olympic champion clocked a world leading time of 12.97 seconds to claim title of men's 110m hurdle event, and the result bettered the previous season best of 13.03s set by America's Aries Merritt two weeks ago.
David Oliver of the United States finished second in 13.13s while another American Jason Richardson, newly crowned world champion in Dague last year settled third in 13.16. Merritt was fourth in 13.26.
"I am always very confident," said Liu. "But I want to say thanks to my rivals, because without their stimulant I can't run within 13s. I have not expected to run this fast, so I am very happy.
"I performed very well from the start to the end," added Liu, who has adopted to the strategy of seven steps to the first hurdle.
"Although it was a rainy day, I gave my full play," said the winner. "I never hold back but just deliver all I have."
Liu is expecting his third Olympic Games in London, but although the 12.97s was impressive, he said he never thought about how fast he could run in London nor whether he can break the world record.
"No matter I am on my top form or not, I have never thought about breaking the world record," said Liu, who clocked in 12.88 to set a world record in Switzerland in 2006. "To break the world world is everyone's dream, but it's so hard to make it true. I performed perfect today and to keep the best form and stand on the Olympic field is my dream."
In last year's controversial final in Dague Worlds where Liu's arm clashed with that of Cuban Dayron Robles, Richardson was the man to benefit, lifting a surprise gold. However Liu expects to compete with Robles again.
"I heard that he will take part in the Diamond League Eugene stop, and I am looking forward to competing with him there," he said. "He is one of the best hurdlers in the world and the world record holder, but I am good too."
Both Oliver and Richardson said they were not surprised by Liu's good result, and Oliver, who was the fastest in the world in 2010 in 12.94s, said he didn't expect a revenge at the Eugene stop in June.
"We all know that Liu is a great hurdler," said Oliver. "I don't expect to take a revenge, but I hope every time when I look the scoreboard, I can see my improvement. I will next focus on the national Olympic trial in June, which is the most important thing for me now."
Richardson, the reigning world champion, was optimistic about his result, which was also his season best, but not satisfied with his performance.
"I can't say I am satisfied with the bronze," he said. "I am good in the first half, but after that I made several mistakes, however, I have not run this fast this early before, so I am really confident."
Liu also complimented his rivals. "Oliver, Richardson, and Aries Merritt are all top hurdlers. Richardson is the world champion last year, and Merritt had beaten me in indoor championships. They are all very strong."
Liu was impressive over the winter season, but was beaten in the World Indoor Championships over 60m hurdles in Istanbul by Merritt, who was considered Liu's biggest rival in Shanghai as well as the upcoming London Games.
Liu shocked the world after withdrawing from the Beijing Olympic Games citing a recurrence of chronic inflammation in his right Achilles tendon.
His injury was significant and also ruled him out of the 2009 world championships. He returned to competition after a 13-month absence at the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix in 2009 where he finished second behind Terrence Trammell.
He declared his full return to best form in 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, winning the gold medal before a crowd of 70,000 in 13.09 seconds - making him the third fastest athlete that season.