They watched, anguished, and they cried and commiserated - on social media, on the streets of the Chinese capital and, in the case of one anchor, even on state television.
Many Chinese following the Olympics at home called hurdler Liu Xiang their hero after the former world-record holder and 2004 Olympic champion crashed into the first hurdle during his first heat of the 110-meter hurdles on Tuesday.
But, for a country that often equates its athletic heroes with a stouthearted national pride, Liu's quick falter in London was a blow that hit home.
''I have to admit, I cried at that moment,'' microblogger Little Actor Zhou Xuanqi wrote. ''I wish he could recover soon.''
On China's Central Television, commentator Yang Jian cried out when Liu fell during the live broadcast. ''He is ending the London Games in the cruelest way you can imagine,'' said Yang, who began to choke up.
''Liu Xiang is a warrior,'' Yang s...