Beijing: China`s Liu Xiang is to skip next month`s Osaka Grand Prix and focus on his Shanghai showdown with Dayron Robles, the Cuban who took his Olympic high hurdles titles.
Liu has never been beaten in Osaka, winning the grand prix five times, the 2001 East Asian Games gold and the 2007 world title at the Naga stadium in the Japanese city.
The decision to miss a race at his "lucky" venue is certain to raise questions about his recovery physically and mentally from the Achilles injury which wrecked his Beijing Olympic dream.
The 26-year-old Shanghainese has competed in just four 110 metres hurdles races -- all in greater China -- since hobbling out of the Olympics 20 months ago and said he had not yet started training outdoors for this season.
"I am afraid I will definitely miss the Osaka Grand Prix on May 8," he told the China Daily. "I will focus on the Shanghai race and hopefully I can get a good result on home soil."
Shanghai is the second stop on the new IAAF Diamond League series and features Jamaica`s sprinting sensation Usain Bolt as well as Liu`s race with Robles.
Robles also struggled with injury last year but returned to win the world indoor 60m title in Doha last month.
"I will not predict who is going to beat who. Just let the result come out on the track," Liu said.
Despite his return at the Shanghai Stadium last year, Liu has not shown anywhere near the form that saw him set the world record in Lausanne four years ago of 12.88 seconds, a time bettered by Robles two years later.
"I am feeling better day by day," he added. "I do not think the injury is a problem any more. I am telling myself to train and race like before. I will start outdoor training this week."
One event Liu will not be skipping is the Asian Games in Guangzhou in November, where he will defend the title he won in 2002 and 2006.
"I will compete at the Asian Games in Guangzhou," he said. "I won in Busan and Doha. So my aim is to have the hat-trick. It`s always a great feeling to win in front of local supporters."