The weight of a host nation's hopes will be firmly on the broad shoulders of Liu Xiang, China's defending Olympic 110m hurdles champion, come next month's Games in Beijing.
Liu became China's first male Olympic champion in athletics when he tied Colin Jackson's world mark of 12.91 sec to win the 110m hurdles final at the Athens Games in 2004.
Four years on, the 25-year-old is viewed as his country's best gold medal hopeful in track and field events at the Beijing Games.
But the Shanghai-born athlete, who was recruited into a specialist sports school at the age of 12, will be under increased pressure not just from his countrymen but Cuban upstart Dayron Robles, who snatched the world record from Liu this summer.
Liu's Olympic victory in Athens four years ago heralded unbridled opportunities for the hurdler and he has cashed in on his fame to become a popular pitchman and a millionaire in his own right.
He adorns outdoor advertising boards, promoting everything from cigarettes and soft drinks to clothing - and can incite a near-riot by appearing in public.
But Liu has shunned media contact in the build-up to the Aug 8-24 Games and requests to interview him are met with a standard reply.
"In response to your request for an interview, we deeply appreciate your interest in Liu Xiang and Chinese athletics," says the four-line message from the Chinese Athletics Association.
"Unfortunately, because of his Olympic preparations, Liu Xiang has entered into a crucial training phase and as a result he cannot speak to the media and we hope for your understanding. Thank you for your support."
His preparations have certainly been hit by the rise to form of Robles, who dethroned his archrival as the world 110m hurdles record holder by shaving a hundreth of a second off the previous best by running 12.87 sec.
The 21-year-old Cuban maintains, however, that Liu will be in pole position come the Beijing Games.
"The sprint hurdles is a very complicated event," Robles said. "I believe that at least five guys will be in a position to win gold in Beijing. Obviously, Liu Xiang is the top favorite, because of all the titles he's won.
"He's lost the world record but he continues to be the main guy to beat."
"I know Liu Xiang will be supported by a large number of people, the entire Chinese population. But I will try to attract that crowd, just try to turn the crowd in favor of Liu Xiang also to get to support me.
"When you're the world record holder then somebody else breaks your record, it's certainly a concern. And it says that of course your rivals are in good shape.
"So I believe that maybe Liu Xiang will have to reflect on that and maybe something has to be changed. He's certainly aware that his strongest rivals for Beijing are in good shape, not only myself but also the American guys and anyone who makes it to the Olympic final."
Liu said he had not been surprised by Robles' performance.
"Actually, I had expected it to happen someday, as Robles is very capable of running under 12.90 sec," he said.
"Robles has been my main rival over the past two years. Neither of us will show mercy at the Olympics, so let's wait and see what happens then."
Liu's coach Sun Haiping said the new world mark would not have a big impact on Liu's preparations but would instead add motivation for the athlete.
"It will inspire Liu Xiang to work harder. And we will continue our preparations without making changes to our training schedule," said Sun.