'Please pay attention to Chinese track and field. I think we Chinese can unleash a yellow tornado on the world.' This illustrious line, engraved in the annals of sporting history, was spoken at the 2004 Athens Games by a jubilant Liu Xiang after he became the first Chinese man to win an Olympic gold in the 110-metres hurdles. Chinese sport had not only stood up, it had out-sprinted and out-jumped the powerhouse athletes and nations of the day. His win ushered in a new era for Chinese sport and whispered promises about China's second coming in four years times at the 2008 Beijing Games were heard on the winds that swirled in the wake of his Greek trail blaze. Liu, the son of a truck driver and a pastry cook, was suddenly cast as a portent of a nation awaking and growing powerful. He was China, and China owned him. But then came a bitter blow - a cruel twist to the story line that only sport can deliver. In front of a bewitched home crowd in the Bird's Nest, the boy who would be king pulled up short during China's golden summer of sport, writhing in agony. All of us in the Nest gasped. Seconds earlier, the stadium was a hive of cheering and worship - and then it fell momentarily silent, paralysed by shock before issuing a huge groan as Liu limped down the tunnel. But he trained and trained and learned from his experiences, intent on making amends on another Summer Olympic day. 'I feel more relaxed in London than I did in Athens or Beijing ... I have been through so many major races, I know how to adjust myself mentally and how to deal with distractions from outside. I'm now enjoying the Olympics,' Liu said, tempting fate. The curse of Achilles struck again. He crashed on to the London 2012 track after striking the first hurdle and watched helplessly as his historic career came to a halt. Liu, a courageous, modest hero to the last, hopped into the tunnel but on realising that this was almost certainly his last Olympics, he swivelled on his good foot and re-entered the Olympic Stadium. No doubt a memory flashed through his mind of the barbed comments he received after he quickly disappeared down the tunnel at the Bird's Nest in 2008. Many complained that he should have walked to the finish line to show the world China was down this time around but certainly not out. So he hopped along the London track intent on finishing the job. A roar from a capacity crowd spurred him on, and he symbolically kissed farewell to the object that made and broke him, the last hurdle. It was an Olympic moment to ensure Liu's spirit lives on and his courage says a lot about the man. But what does his premature exit say about China's obsession with gold medals, its training system and the millions spent on each athlete? What does the broken Liu, who is only 29, say about the amount of pressure placed upon the individuals who make up Team China by the government and the expectant mainland? Back in China, there were tears, shock and anger at Liu's repeat Olympic exit. CCTV commentator Yang Jian broke down sobbing with millions of viewers watching. 'This is the worst result I could have imagined,' cried Yang. Many were also sobbing but a few nasty, overly nationalistic Chinese were hastily dispatching barbed comments via the internet. Before his heat, his every movement was - as it has been for eight years - scrutinised obsessively. Doubts about his fitness swirled as the rumour mill went into overdrive. The mainland media are not allowed to discuss the merits and pitfalls of the sports system. An order from officials was sent last week, and leaked. 'In reporting on the London Olympics, do not raise the issue of the 'national system' [of sports training] again. Except for commentary in specified media, do not challenge or speculate on the system,' it ordered. So with healthy debate out of bounds, official comment and facts rare, air time and pages are instead filled with every microscopic detail about how Team China eat, sleep and prepare for glory. For a household name like Liu, a CCCP member who rubs shoulders with Party leaders, the attention is relentless. He is accompanied by coaches or officials and minders almost wherever he goes. His every word monitored and his phone calls are limited by his 'team'. He is mobbed by fans in public. We can only imagine the psychological effect from perpetually grinning, acting sanguine and uttering over and over the same sanitised lines. Daily training is hard enough but this extra pressure must be a grind - a millstone on the soul. Little wonder he fled unexpectedly to Germany to finish his training last month. Losing is not an option in the eyes of many in China. A weightlifter sobbed on national TV that he had 'disgraced the motherland' for achieving a silver medal. The pair of Chinese women among the eight badminton players involved in 'Shuttlegate' - trying to fix matches - and expelled from London saw themselves labelled 'pathetic' and 'shameful' at home. 'If we win a few less gold medals, ordinary people could abuse us,' said Xiao Tian, deputy chef de mission of the Chinese Olympic delegation. The government has been wary of allowing too much public pressure to affect its expensively honed athletes. Officials constantly battle with the mixer tap from which national pride and nationalism flow. All too often in sport, the temperature of the nation runs red hot and unattractive nationalism rises. State councillor Dai Bingguo, the government's representative at the opening ceremony, sought to temper emotions and ease the pressure valve. 'We are still a developing country and should keep a modest and prudent attitude even though China is becoming more and more globally influential,' Dai told Team China in London ahead of the Games. 'We are considered a big sporting country but we are still not a sporting giant. There are still gaps,' he added. But victory on Sunday is still paramount and in the next breath, Dai added: 'I hope everyone works hard ... to present a gift for the 18th Party Congress this year.' Pressure? What pressure?