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Do you want an expert’s prediction on the IAAF World Athletics Championships?

Well, we’ve got one for you.

Edwin Moses, who won 122 consecutive 400-meter hurdles races, offered his assessment of who will steal the spotlight at the 2007 IAAF World Athletics Championships, which begins on Saturday in Osaka.

First we’ll give you one clue: More than 1 billion people will be rooting for him.

“I think the hurdler from China is going to be the star of the show,” said Moses during a recent interview in Tokyo.

He, of course, is speaking about Liu Xiang.

The Shanghai-based athlete earned a bronze medal in the 110 hurdles at the 2003 World Championships in Paris. He followed that up with a silver at worlds two years later in Helsinki.

Now, he feels, it’s his turn to capture the winner’s prize.

“I am confident about my chances at the world championships,” Liu told AFP-Jiji. “I really want to see what winning the gold feels like.”

By winning the 110 hurdles at the 2004 Athens Olympics, Liu was the first Chinese male to win a track gold in the Olympics.

For an encore, he established a world-record time of 12.88 seconds in 2006 in a Super Grand Prix meet in Switzerland.

He’s still hungry to do more.

“Osaka is my lucky track and I hope it brings me success again,” Liu told China Daily. “I was third in 2003 and second in 2005 in the World Championships, so I certainly hope to get a better result this time around.”

Liu has placed first in the Japan Grand Prix four times, so he has a track record of success at Nagai Stadium.

China Daily reports that Lee “has been working on fast starts and acceleration over the initial hurdles in training.”

Liu’s top competition is expected to come from Cuba’s Dayron Robles and Terrence Trammell of the United States.

U.S. standout Allen Johnson, a four-time world champion, is not competing in Osaka.

The 110 hurdles final is slated for 10:20 p.m. on Aug. 31.

In the 400 hurdles, Japan’s Dai Tamesue is aiming for a medal for a third time at worlds. He picked up bronze medals in 2001 and ’05.

On May 5, Tamesue ran a season-best time of 48.73 at the Osaka Grand Prix. He placed third.

He followed that up with a runnerup finish at the Bydgoszcz European Athletic Festival in Poland on June 10, completing the race in 49.42 seconds.

Tamesue earned back-to-back wins at the Praha Josef Odlozil Memorial and Osaka Japanese Challenge on June 13 and 30, respectively.

Since then, he has picked up a pair of seventh-place finishes at the Paris-St. Dennis Meeting Gaz de France and Rome Golden Gala.

Moses said Tamesue’s athletic success is a reminder that height isn’t the most significant characteristic of a hurdler.

Tamesue stands 170 cm.

“He’s not a big guy at all,” Moses said, “and it just goes to show you that you don’t have to have the typical physical type to do well in an event.”

Others have said Tamesue has perfected his technique and that’s enabled him shave hundredths of seconds off his time.

Liu, on the other hand, is 189 cm tall. His size is a good fit for the 110 hurdles.

“If you look at the Chinese hurdler, he’s taller than I am, but his legs are like four inches (10.1 cm) shorter,” Moses said.

“He has a very long torso, which for him is perfect for running the 110-meter hurdles because he won’t run into the hurdles as often as a guy with six-inch (15.2 cm) longer legs because you are talking about 10 meters and three steps.”

The 400 hurdles final is slated for 10:20 p.m. on Aug. 28.

Slow times in ’07

Moses, for one, has not been impressed by track and field performances this season.

“This year has been a very slow year for track and field in terms of times, I think,” Moses said. “Last year was a dynamic year. You had a lot of super-fast times in super events, but for some reason it seems like the times have been suppressed. Why? I don’t know.”

This, too, has been evident in the 400 hurdles.

“There have not been a lot of fast times and times that were in my event,” Moses said.

“For example, three or four years ago, they had five guys running under 48 seconds. This year, all these guys are running 48-high, so I don’t know what is going to happen to be honest with you.”

He’ll find out soon enough.

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