Meet Liu Xiang, the most famous athlete in China

Down the road, when the story of the Beijing Olympics is written, there's a good chance that it will begin with the night of August 21st. That's the night hurdler Liu Xiang will defend his Olympic title in the 110-meter hurdles with all of China watching.

Liu is said to be the most famous athlete in China, surpassing even Yao Ming. Yet, he is largely unknown in the United States even though he stands to become the biggest story of these Games. (In this way, he brings to mind Australia's Cathy Freeman, who stole the show in the Sydney Olympics eight years ago despite little pre-Games fanfare in the States.) It is with this in mind that Fourth-Place Medal provides eight (the Chinese love that number) interesting facts about China's favorite son:

1. Won gold medal in the 110 hurdles in Athens at the age of 21

2. In third grade, Chinese coaches analyzed Liu's bone scans and X-rays and determined he should be a high jumper

3. Makes reported $23 million in yearly endorsements, half of which goes to the Chinese government (not for taxes)

4. Probably thinks that this Brett Favre story is getting too much coverage

5. Set world record in the 110 hurdles in 2006 (since broken)

6. Enjoys singing karaoke, particularly "Chinese songs"

7. Listed as the #2 "athlete who could be stars of the show in Beijing" on his own website

8. Liu's name is pronounced: "åå" (The "å" is silent.)

Photo via Getty Images

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