转《Olympic hurdler Liu Xiang still a hero to China》

Liu Xiang shocked China after having to leave the men's 100m hurdles heat due to injury.

Liu Xiang's withdrawal from the hurdles because of an Achilles injury leaves the Chinese heartbroken and questioning whether he was under too much pressure.

BEIJING -- China's "Flying Man" is now its "Achilles."

In the moments after China watched Liu Xiang, its most popular Olympic athlete, limp away from the Games on Monday, grimacing with an injury, a reporter for the state-run television stood on the floor of the National Stadium and choked back tears.

Liu's exit shocked the country like no Olympic moment so far. His performance in the 110-meter hurdles was to have been a soaring moment in a national event decades in the making. Even as it racked up more gold medals than ever before, China pinned its national expectations on Liu, a Chinese sprinter of unprecedented gifts, to personify the triumph over China's deep-seated insecurity about its respect on the world stage.

Instead, the 25-year-old left a tearful nation struggling to understand what went wrong.

"He is still the king in our hearts," reporter Dong Ernan said into the camera. Broadcasting to hundreds of millions of Chinese viewers, the station's hosts invoked the ancient Greek known in Chinese as Ah-ke-liu-si, "a hero who also could not stand the pain in his heel."

It was an appropriate parable for Liu, the defending Olympic gold medalist in the 110-meter hurdles, who left the track during the first heat of his event because of an injured Achilles tendon.

More than any other athlete -- even more than Yao Ming, an NBA professional who lives most of the year abroad -- Liu's rise from international obscurity four years ago to a gold medal in Athens, and then movie-star status, had come to embody China's national aspirations for the Games and its intention to outperform wealthier, more established sports powers.

His withdrawal triggered soul-searching among Chinese fans who wondered whether they had placed too much pressure on a single athlete, and among sports experts, who asked how his injury could have been prevented.

The nation's official image-makers also moved swiftly to shore up pride in China's Olympic performance and defuse disappointment. A television anchor advised viewers that "the best way to comfort and support Liu Xiang is to continue to watch and support the other Olympic competitions."

Liu was the only Chinese athlete considered a contender for a gold medal in track and field in Beijing. Since winning his gold in Athens -- which he called, at the time, "a modest miracle for the yellow-skinned Chinese people and the Asian people" -- Liu had racked up endorsement contracts worth an estimated $20 million or more.

The son of a truck driver and groomed to run track since age 9, Liu was dubbed the Flying Man, and his image was slapped on buses, billboards and television advertisements from Beijing to the farthest reaches of China's west.

Liu had been dealing with a hamstring problem that forced him to pull out of a meet in New York on May 31. He had been training in seclusion since and dodging public appearances as anticipation built. Some newspaper commentaries had suggested that if Liu failed in Beijing, it would undermine his previous accomplishments.

The showdown was expected to come Thursday in the final of the 110-meter hurdles, when Liu would probably have faced Cuba's Dayron Robles, 21, who beat Liu's world record in the event this year.

But trouble emerged Sunday when Liu's official website posted news that "an inflamed Achilles tendon" had forced him to skip training Sunday and that his coach, Sun Haiping, worried about his fitness to run in the final.

Liu nevertheless emerged on the track Monday, wincing and massaging his right calf and foot. He settled into the blocks, but after another runner made a false start, Liu pulled off his number and left the track.

At a news conference afterward, the tearful Sun said a long-standing right foot injury had worsened recently. Three doctors had examined Liu in the run-up to the competition, he added, but Liu had intended to run.

"Liu Xiang persisted, but he honestly had no way to go on because the injury was right at the point of impact on his foot," Sun said, before being overcome with emotion.

Liu's injury quickly became enveloped in the vocabulary of national tragedy, not athletic competition. Signing off its live coverage, a state-television host said, "Liu Xiang, our message to you is this: We will forever be with you."

That kind of public emotional response was unusual in Chinese media until recently, and it has not been seen since the Sichuan earthquake in May killed tens of thousands of people. In that event, reporters wept on the air and screens were adorned with the logo "Unite as One." The experience came to be viewed by the Chinese people as a rare moment of public empathy in a nation unaccustomed to emotional outpourings for those who are not political leaders.

That collective empathy was visible once again in the response to Liu's withdrawal, said Yin Hong, a professor of communications at Beijing's Tsinghua University.

转《China's Track Superstar Drops Out》

China's Liu Xiang on the track at the Aug. 18 men's 110-m hurdles, minutes before dropping out with an injury

It was the race all of China — and, no, this is not journalistic hyperbole — was waiting for. On Aug. 18, under a hazy Beijing sky, Chinese megastar Liu Xiang was supposed to cruise to victory in heat six of the 110-m hurdles' first round. His competitors were, frankly, uninspiring — the man with the second fastest personal best, after Liu's 12.88 sec., was a Dutchman who had clocked in a relatively leisurely 13.35 sec. This was going to be the moment of glory for a man for whom a Beijing gold medal was the foremost wish among the Chinese people, according to a nationwide poll. A sea of Chinese flags waved. The Bird's Nest stadium thrummed with expectation.

But when the starting gun went off, Liu was missing from Lane 2. Minutes earlier, during a warm-up set of hurdles, Liu had grabbed his right leg, wincing in pain. As the 25-year-old returned to the starting blocks, his face was clenched in a grimace. The nearly 91,000-strong crowd, which had gathered at the Bird's Nest stadium to watch China's most beloved Olympic athlete, couldn't see Liu's contorted facial expression, so his fans continued to wave their national flags. Then, a false start. Liu took a few brave steps, but his leg seemed to crumple. Instead of returning to the blocks for another try, he slowly limped off the track. The TV cameras, which had nosed their way into the face of many a disgraced, disappointed athlete, kept a respectful distance. As a nation waited, Liu, icon of the Beijing Olympics and face of countless advertising billboards, sat backstage rubbing his leg. His race went on without him.

A Greek named Konstadinos Douvalidis won the heat with a time of 13.49 sec., but probably few in the stadium could recount that result. On Aug. 18, even though China had already surpassed its 2004 Athens golden haul by three medals, the nation was paralyzed with shock. Even the announcers on Chinese television didn't know what to say, letting silence wash over the airwaves. In postrace news wrap-ups, at least two Chinese journalists choked up, unable to describe what had just happened. The violin strains that accompanied montages of Liu's Olympic journey felt more suited to a state leader's funeral than to a race averted.

After winning a surprise gold medal in the 110-m hurdles in Athens four years ago, Liu morphed from amiable jock into national stud. In 2006 he shattered the event's world record with his 12.88 time. As an Asian athlete competing in a klieg-light track event — not an international sideline sport like badminton or table tennis or synchronized diving — Liu came to personify the Chinese nation's rising ambitions. The pressure for a golden repeat in China's Games must have been overwhelming.

Before the opening ceremony on Aug. 8, there was frenzied speculation in the Chinese blogosphere about who would carry China's flag and who would light the Olympic flame. The two obvious candidates were hoops star Yao Ming and hurdling legend Liu. When Yao loped in front of the massive Chinese Olympic team with the Chinese flag held aloft, the audience naturally thought Liu would carry the final torch. But that honor went instead to retired gymnast and sports-clothing tycoon Li Ning. Liu didn't even march with the Chinese Olympic delegation. Where was he?

Earlier this spring, Liu had disappeared from public view, nursing a sore hamstring that led him to pull out of a May race and triggered another injury to his Achilles tendon. By the start of the summer, the protective cocoon around the hurdler had reached epic proportions. In June, Dayron Robles, a bespectacled Cuban, shaved one-hundredth of a second off of Liu's world record. The Chinese was going into the Beijing Olympics as the underdog. (Robles easily won his Beijing heat less than an hour before Liu was scheduled to compete, while medal contender Terrence Trammell of the U.S. failed to finish his race because of an injured leg.)

At a press conference shortly after Liu pulled out, Liu's coach Sun Haiping, who has mentored the Shanghai-born athlete since he was a child, dissolved into tears. Dabbing his eyes with a tissue, he described how Liu's hamstring and Achilles tendon had caused excruciating pain and how sports hospital staff had tried intensive massage to heal the injuries. But it was of no use. The throbbing, exacerbated by a training session two days before, was so severe that the hurdler was shivering during rehab treatments. Liu was determined to compete unless the pain was "intolerable," said Feng Shuyong, China's head athletics coach. Apparently, it was. Mighty Liu Xiang had dropped out.


转《On your marks, get set, Lego! Welcome to the Olympics where everyone's quick off the blocks》

As the world watches the Beijing Games, enthusiasts from Hong Kong have unveiled their own Olympics — built entirely from Lego.
More than 300,000 Lego bricks and 4,500 Lego people were used to create the display, by the Hong Kong Lego User Group.

Chopstick challenge: The Birds' Nest stadium is a miniature work of art as complex as the original

Birds' eye view: The miniature even has a football pitch, complete with players and markings

The intricate miniature city, measuring 10ft by 26ft, features most of the recognisable venues, including the Birds’ Nest Stadium and the Water Cube swimming centre.

Making a splash: The Hong Kong Lego team went to great lengths to recreate the spectacular Water Cube aquatic centre, inside and out (below)

Sand and deliver: There is even George Bush's favourite sport, beach volleyball

Smash hit: Ping pong players line up at the tables in the arena

Serving up a treat: The Smallville tennis tournament is in full swing

The Hong Kong Lego User Group, says: 'We believe that creations are not limited by resources, but by ideas.'

Bridle suite: Designers lovingly created tiny Lego trainers tending their Lego horses before they compete in the equestrian arena, below

Chain reaction: Mini cyclists saddle up

转《Spray-On Condoms: Still a Hard Sell》

Edison had his lightbulb, Ford had his Model T, and Jan Vinzenz Krause has his spray-on condom. Inspired by the mechanics of a drive-through car wash, the German sexual-health educator designed a custom-fitting male contraceptive using liquid latex and some materials from a hardware store. "I felt a little like MacGyver," he says of building the contraption.

U.S. condom sales have been increasing steadily over the years, according to Packaged Facts, a division of Market Research Group, and they are expected to top $444 million annually by 2010. But usage among teens appears to have leveled off, with 61.5% of sexually active high schoolers surveyed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2007 reporting that they had used a condom during their most recent intercourse, down from 62.8% in 2005 and 63% in 2003. Access to condoms is one issue; inclination to use them is another. Which helps explain why companies are constantly looking for ways to improve the standard product — vibrating, warming, climax-delaying, even glow-in-the-dark condoms are all available on drugstore shelves.

Offering a wide variety of condom options is not only a smart business move, it's good for public health. When used properly, condoms don't just act as contraceptives; they also prevent the spread of most sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. That means sexual-health educators, public health officials and condom brand CEOs alike are interested in finding ways to make condoms more appealing, especially to young people.

As a teenager, Krause, now 30, had trouble finding the right size condom, which set him on a quest to aid other similarly befuddled young men. In 2001 he developed an online condom adviser, which provides printable measuring tapes and instructions to help men determine which condom, out of all the brands available in Germany, will fit the best. According to Krause, more than 300,000 people have used the free service.

The site's popularity put Krause in touch with students and sex-ed teachers across Germany, who expressed a common frustration. "They told me, 'Mr. Krause, I don't understand why the industry doesn't develop a condom which fits you perfectly,' " he says.

Hence his idea for a spray-on condom. The prototype, which began testing last year, consists of a hard plastic tube with nozzles that spray liquid latex from all directions, much like the water jets in the tunnel of a car wash. According to Krause, there are numerous advantages to his spray-on condom. "The condom fits 100% perfectly, so the safety is much higher than a standard condom's, and it feels more natural."

But there are some stumbling blocks. The men who tested the spray-on condom had a few hesitations, Krause says. Some were "a little bit afraid to use the tube" and would only try it on their fingers. Others worried that the mechanism, which hisses as it sprays, might ruin the mood.

But the most serious problem with the design — which is what has kept the product off the market thus far — is that the latex takes too long to dry. Liquid latex currently takes two to three minutes to vulcanize, making it impractical. "For people to buy it," Krause says, "it needs to be ready in five to 10 seconds."

That has kept the spray-on condom on hold indefinitely until a faster-drying latex comes along. Meanwhile, Krause is tackling the size problem by preparing to launch a line of condoms in six sizes, instead of the usual one or two. They should be available in Europe starting in September and in the U.S. possibly as early as 2010.

"Having condoms in different sizes we think is a good and smart idea," says David Johnson, group product manager of Trojan Brand Condoms. Trojan's parent company, Church and Dwight, makes nearly 8 out of 10 condoms sold in the U.S. But different-size condoms introduce their own problems: namely, men aren't very eager to buy a small size. Trojan's Magnum line, whose condoms are 15% bigger than regular ones, accounts for 13% of the U.S. market. But when the company introduced a smaller condom several years ago, it had to discontinue it.

Krause says men are reluctant to go to a drugstore cashier with a box of small-size condoms — for obvious reasons. His solution: he plans to sell his new line of different-size condoms online. "Men on the Web," he says, "they are very honest."


转《How Olympic athletes get their fuel》

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- If carb-loading were an Olympic competition, U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps would probably medal there, too. His day starts with three cheese-tomato-onion-fried egg sandwiches, an omelet, three powdered-sugar-covered slices of French toast, a bowl of grits and three chocolate chip pancakes to top it off, according to news reports.
Phelps told reporters earlier this week he was instructed to eat between 8,000 and 10,000 calories every day. Other news reports put the total as high as 12,000 calories.
This sounds extreme, even to some dietitians. But Olympic athletes' nutritional needs do vary widely according to their sports and body sizes, and swimming for long periods of time will naturally burn a lot of calories, experts told CNN.

Phelps' intake is just what his appetite requires, said Nancy Clark, a sports nutritionist in Boston, Massachusetts. iReport.com: Phelps to answer your video questions"He's a limousine, he's tall. A limousine needs more gas than a Mini Cooper," said Clark, who has worked with Olympic athletes. "Hunger is simply a request for fuel."
Different sports need different amounts of fuel, she said. Gymnastics, for example, "doesn't require so much caloric expenditure," she said, and those athletes generally eat less than some others. They also tend to be smaller physically.Shannon Miller, 31, the most decorated gymnast in U.S. history and winner of seven Olympic medals, told CNN Friday that she didn't have any "off-limits" foods while in training. Her breakfast would be two waffles with butter and syrup, and her working parents would order Chinese food or pizza once a week.
"I knew I needed to eat in order to have energy, but at the time I really didn't think about it too scientifically," she said. "It was very simple: If I was hungry, I ate."
Miller retired after her medal-winning performance at the 1996 Olympics. She attempted a comeback in the 2000 Olympic trials but injured herself. She will perform in the 2008 Tour of Olympic Superstars.

"After I retired, I immediately hit puberty and it was tough. My entire body changed," she said. "I went from working out over 40 hours a week to nothing, and kept eating the same amount of food. It took some time, but I figured out an 'everything in moderation approach' that works for me."Still, Miller said she didn't think too much about her eating habits when she was training. She enjoys eating, and had favorite and least favorite foods.

Clark described a typical gymnast's daily menu: a breakfast of cereal, milk and a banana; a lunch of a sandwich and soup; snacks of trail mix, energy bars and fruit; and a dinner of chicken, rice and vegetables.

A weight lifter, Clark said, would eat the same kinds of things, but in larger quantities and with more of a focus on protein. Add eggs and yogurt to the gymnast's breakfast, and multiply the portions of all of the meals -- piles of rice, vegetables and two or three pieces of chicken for dinner.
Long-distance runners also have high-calorie needs, said Tara Gidus, dietician for the Orlando Magic NBA team and owner of Tara Gidus Nutrition Consulting in Orlando, Florida. She recommends liquids -- smoothies, fruit juices, sweetened juices -- to deliver those calories so that athletes don't have to eat something every hour. Nuts and nut-butters are also dense in energy, she said.

Dinner for the long-distance runner would be carbs -- potatoes, rice, bread -- with some protein -- salmon, chicken, lean beef -- and vegetables mixed in, she said. Antioxidants are key because athletes produce a lot of free radicals, which can result in cell damage.Gidus discourages athletes from eating foods dripping in fat. But an egg fried in olive oil instead of butter or mayonnaise without saturated fat on a sandwich would be good sources of calories, she said.

Female athletes tend to view food as fattening, while males want to know how they can get more fuel, Clark said. Even at the Olympic level, weight is a big issue among gymnasts, divers and sports runners, she said.
Gidus is more skeptical of Phelps' diet, especially if he maintains a 10,000-calorie diet during competitions. She finds it hard to believe that he needs or eats that many calories.

"Ten-thousand calories can actually cause him to get bogged down a little bit," she said.

Most female athletes should get between 2,000 and 3,000 calories, while male athletes should get 3,000 to 5,000, Clark said. A petite gymnast probably wouldn't eat a fifth of what Phelps does -- but he is still getting the carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals that he needs, Clark said.

"There's a saying that the best athletes have the junkiest diets," she said. "The best athletes are really genetically gifted. They tend to eat and enjoy it."


转《Phelps' Lucky Seven》

One one-hundredth of a second. That's a hair-splittingly short amount of time — faster even than an eyeblink. But it's enough to win Olympic gold, and for Michael Phelps, it meant medal No. 7. By out-touching Serbia's Milorad Cavic in the 100m butterfly on Saturday, Phelps now ties with Mark Spitz as owning the most gold medals from a single Games. He might break that record tomorrow, when he swims the 4x100m medley relay, but for now, he and the 1972 Games champ Spitz stand shoulder to shoulder as the most impressive swimmers in Olympic history.

Think that's a big deal? You and everyone else. Except, that is, for Phelps himself, who continues to downplay the significance of what he has achieved in Beijing — seven medals, six world records, and one more to go. "It shows that no matter what you set your mind to, anything can happen," Phelps said with his typical lack of emotion when asked about matching Spitz. "I saw so many quotes saying it's impossible to duplicate, that it won't happen. But Bob [Bowman, Phelps' coach] is the one who helped me to really dream about anything. Bob and I have gone through a lot together, and it's all paid off."

It almost didn't, when the close finish prompted the Serbian team to file a protest. From above the water, it looked as if Cavic slid to the wall first, while Phelps was still completing his last, chopped stroke to propel himself to the finish. Each time the last seconds of the race replayed on the screen inside the Cube, Serbian athletes and coaches pointed, outraged, at what looked like an obvious first-place win for Cavic. Super slow motion video, however, captured by the official Olympic timing system by Omega, showed without a doubt that Phelps had touched first. "We made a review of the video footage," said Ben Ekumbo, the race referee. "It was very clear that the Serbian swimmer touched second after Michael Phelps." In order to dispel any doubts, however, the International Swimming Federation (FINA) also took the unusual step of allowing the Serbian officials to view the footage for themselves. "We didn't want them to go [to] sleep feeling like something was lost and they didn't have a chance," Ekumbo said. "Although the rules don't allow [for team officials] to watch video footage, we did give them the opportunity to see for themselves after the competition. The Serbian team was very satisfied, and agreed with the decision by the referee."

The 100m butterfly is always the closest individual race in Phelps' repertoire. In Athens, he barely beat out teammate Ian Crocker, winning by .04 second. (Crocker finished fourth — .55 seconds behind Phelps — on Saturday.) That time, it was Phelps who streaked to the wall while still underwater, as Crocker remained airborne. But in an instinctive split-second decision this time around, Phelps made the right one to come up before his touch. "When I did chop that last stroke I really thought it cost me the race," he said. "I ended up making the right decision. Trying to take a short fast stroke to try to get my hand on the wall first turned out to be in my favor." His coach agreed. "In that situation, it's the lesser of two evils — either you're going to glide or take half a stroke," said Bowman. "He did a much better job taking half a stroke."

And that decision couldn't have come any sooner. "One one hundreth of a second is the smallest margin of victory in our sport," Phelps said with a grin. "It's pretty cool. That's all I can say." For his part, Cavic was philosophical. "It's a complete miracle to me that I am here," he said. "I retired a year and a half ago, so I'm enjoying this moment from my heart. I know I had a long finish and Michael Phelps had a short finish. I'm not angry at all."

No need to be, when you come in second to the world's best swimmer. And if Phelps and the U.S. medley relay can beat the Australians on Sunday, that title might change to not just the world's best swimmer, but history's best swimmer — ever.

转《Graves Found From Sahara’s Green Period》

When Paul C. Sereno went hunting for dinosaur bones in the Sahara, his career took a sharp turn from paleontology to archaeology. The expedition found what has proved to be the largest known graveyard of Stone Age people who lived there when the desert was green.

The first traces of pottery, stone tools and human skeletons were discovered eight years ago at a site in the southern Sahara, in Niger. After preliminary research, Dr. Sereno, a University of Chicago scientist who had previously uncovered remains of the dinosaur Nigersaurus there, organized an international team of archaeologists to investigate what had been a lakeside hunting and fishing settlement for the better part of 5,000 years, originating some 10,000 years ago.

In its first comprehensive report, published Thursday, the team described finding about 200 graves belonging to two successive populations. Some burials were accompanied by pottery and ivory ornaments. A girl was buried wearing a bracelet carved from a hippo tusk. A man was seated on the carapace of a turtle.

The most poignant scene was the triple burial of a petite woman lying on her side, facing two young children. The slender arms of the children reached out to the woman in an everlasting embrace. Pollen indicated that flowers had decorated the grave.

The sun-baked dunes at the site, known as Gobero, preserve the earliest and largest Stone Age cemetery in the Sahara, Dr. Sereno’s group reported in the online journal PLoS One. The findings, they wrote, open “a new window on the funerary practices, distinctive skeletal anatomy, health and diet of early hunter-fisher-gatherers, who expanded into the Sahara when climatic conditions were favorable.”

The research was also described at a news conference on Thursday in Washington at the National Geographic Society, a supporter of the project.

The initial inhabitants at Gobero, the Kiffian culture, were tall hunters of wild game who also fished with harpoons carved from animal bone. Later, a more lightly built people, the Ténérians, lived there, hunting, fishing and herding cattle.

Other scientists said the discovery appeared to provide spectacular evidence that nothing, not even the arid expanse of the Sahara, was changeless. About 100 million years ago, this land was forested and occupied by dinosaurs and enormous crocodiles. Around 50,000 years ago, people moved in and left stone tools and mounds of shells, fish bones and other refuse. The lakes dried up in the last Ice Age.

Then the rains and lakes of a fecund Sahara returned about 12,000 years ago, and remained, except for one 1,000-year interval, until about 4,500 years ago. Geologists have long known that the region’s basins retained mineral residue of former lakes, and other explorers have found scatterings of human artifacts from that time, as Dr. Sereno did at Gobero in 2000.

“Everywhere you turned, there were bones belonging to animals that don’t live in the desert,” he said. “I realized we were in the green Sahara.”

Human skeletons were eroding from the dunes, including jawbones with nearly full sets of teeth and finger bones of a tiny hand pointing up from the sand.

From an analysis of the skeletons and pottery, scientists identified the two successive cultures that occupied the settlement. The Kiffians, some of whom stood up to six feet tall, both men and women, lived there during the Sahara’s wettest period, between 10,000 and 8,000 years ago. They were primarily hunter-gatherers who speared huge lake perch with harpoons.

Elena A. A. Garcea, an archaeologist at the University of Cassino in Italy, identified ceramics with wavy lines and zigzag patterns as Kiffian, a culture associated with northern Africa. Pots bearing a pointillistic pattern were linked to the Ténérians, a people named for the Ténéré desert, a stretch of the Sahara known to Tuareg nomads as a “desert within a desert.”

Christopher M. Stojanowski, an archaeologist at Arizona State University, said the two cultures were “biologically distinct groups.” The bones and teeth showed that in contrast to the robust Kiffians, the Ténérians were typically short and lean and apparently led less rigorous lives.

The shapes of the Ténérian skulls are puzzling, researchers said, because they resemble those of Mediterranean people, not other nearby groups.

Asked if he had adjusted to the transition from dinosaur paleontology to Stone Age archaeology, Dr. Sereno said, “It’s still weird for me to be digging up my own species.”