An Olympic moment -- yours, mine, anybody's -- is comprised not of 60 seconds, but of many years. My Olympics begin at the previous Olympics, because that is when the quadrennial arc commences. A heartbreaking loss becomes the motivation to continue; a gold medal becomes something to defend. You watch the time unfold. You track the stories in hopes that they will someday be completed. You mark the date somewhere and you wait.
Last May in New York I met with Liu for a story in
His eyes widened. "Four-by-one?'' he said in English. And then he began waving his hands and laughing. "Nononononononono.'' He stood on the street outside a New York hotel as I talked to his coach,
Liu never ran another race. On the morning of Aug. 18, I was in the Birds Nest national stadium when Liu fell to the track after awkwardly clearing two hurdles before his first-round heat against a bunch of guys he could have crushed eight years ago. He folded himself into the blocks for the start and limped forward at the gun, a flast start. The he ripped of his hip sticker and walked down a tunnel, leaving his lane empty.
The stadium fell into a stunned buzz. Chinese workers cried. A nation fell into anguish. Liu disappeared from sunlight into shade. I thought: Four years over. And that's how it ends. Damn