How To Be An Olympic Hero, In 11 Dramatic GIFs

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You know that nightmare where you're in front of your entire school, giving a speech for student-council president and suddenly you realize you're — gasp! — naked? There's just something so petrifying about everyone you know staring directly at you, as an important event in your life takes a turn for the worst. For famed Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang, his shot at medaling at the London Olympics was just like that, only so much worse — until his stunning ending turned his track tragedy around.

After the competitor won the 110m hurdles at the 2004 Olympics, he returned home to fame, glory, and near-hero status in China — a country that had never previously nabbed gold in track & field. But, when the reigning champion returned to the Beijing Summer Games four years later, his worst nightmare came true: The pain from his injured Achilles tendon was so severe that he had to drop out moments before racing. With his dreams shattered and his country in shock — he was competing on his home turf, after all — Liu made a triumphant comeback over the past four years, until that same injured Achilles brought him down after the first hurdle during his preliminary heat in London earlier this week.

Though those half-clothed, high-school nightmares usually end with a panicky wake-up, the reason everyone's talking about Xiang is because of the triumphant finish he did make when he began to leave the arena, then turned around, and hopped his way down the track to the final hurdle, giving it a big ol' honorary smooch. And, our friends over at BuzzFeed have the entire whole story in GIFs, making the play-by-play slowly unfold in a shocking-then-stunning way.

With his competitors coming to his assistance and helping him off of the track, it's a perfect reminder that even crossing the finish line last sometimes can still make you a champion. And, bonus, this guy's such a top-notch athlete that even his hopping is shockingly athletic. (Seriously!) He may not come away with another gold medal, but he's got somethin' else worth being envious over: pride. (BuzzFeed)

Photo: Via BuzzFeed