Liu Xiang is beginning to feel the heat. Friends, family and virtually everyone else in this city of 17 million have their eyes trained on the Olympic gold medallist as he competes for the first time in his hometown since his world record-equalling success in Athens last year. This meeting will be a huge test. The expectations of the organisers, the media and the public have put the pressure on the 22-year-old to perform and Liu doesn't want to disappoint. Even his rivals sense the pressure Liu is under. 'I wake up in the morning in my Shanghai hotel room, look out the window and see a giant billboard of Liu smiling at me. Obviously, his fans are expecting great things from him again,' said American Dominique Arnold, one of the world's top ranked hurdlers. Said Liu: 'Athens seemed a long time ago when I won the gold medal. Now, everybody is expecting me to win again in my hometown. The pressure is on, yes, but I have to handle it just like I have to handle all the other competitions I compete in,' said the Shanghai native, one of China's top sports stars. Liu's participation in the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix has caught the imagination of the city and his race in the 110 metres hurdles is the most eagerly anticipated event of the 14 events at the Shanghai Stadium. Liu admits that competing at home does give him the edge, but China's first male Olympic gold medallist in track and field expects a tough race as he competes against old rivals Allen Johnson and Arnold. 'Yes, I do have an advantage because this is my hometown and all the other competitors had to fly in from Europe. I have been training for a few weeks here and I feel in good form. Actually I feel great. I am ready to run a big race. 'This is the first time I have competed in Shanghai in three or four years. The last time I competed here at a senior level was at the All-China National Games. It will be a special feeling to compete in front of all my fans. 'The stadium was built in 1997 and it's a good stadium capable of hosting top-class international competitions. It will be a good venue for me.' Liu has been training in secrecy to the chagrin of the local media, who have been trying to follow his every move. Few know exactly when and where he trains. And he wants it that way. 'Everybody has been asking me for tickets to attend the competition. My parents will be going and so will my friends. I know a lot of people in Shanghai and Shanghai people also know me. A lot of people will be hoping that I win and I will try not to disappoint,' he said. The world-class 110 metres hurdles line-up is reportedly without French world champion Ladji Doucoure, who pulled out with a thigh injury sustained while finishing sixth in last week's IAAF World Athletics final in Monaco. 'Ladji is a good athlete,' said Liu. 'I am a bit disappointed that he cannot come. I believe he has good reason for not coming. Perhaps he has a lot of pressure or because his body doesn't allow him to compete. He probably needs a break.' Asked whether there was pressure to perform again in front of his legion of fans, he said: 'I do have some pressure. Everybody knows me and they will be screaming out my name. I am trying to relax before the race. I need to relax and not think about the race too much. I don't want more pressure.'' 'I feel more relaxed than when I was in Athens. I was in my best condition in Athens after training hard. My form is good. I feel good and I am confident of doing well.' Liu said his European season had finished and that he had two more big meetings before the end of the year: the All-China National Games and the East Asian Games in Macau. Asked whether we could expect him to break the world record, Liu replied: 'Many people have asked me this question many times. I have never thought about it. I am just going to do my best. If I push myself too hard, I will put too much pressure on myself. Right now, I am going to relax. It's going to be a good race.'