If you fall at the first hurdle, you make a mistake at a very early stage, or fail to do something.
The football team fell at the first hurdle when they were knocked out of the tournament in the opening game.
My plan to travel the world fell at the first hurdle when I realised I'd lost my passport before I even left the country.
His efforts to save money fell at the first hurdle when the washing machine broke down and he had to buy a new one.
Don't confuse it with
If you fall or bend over backwards, you do everything in your power to please someone.
I fell over backwards to make a nice meal for my mother-in-law.
I always bend over backwards to make sure my work is accurate.
Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang's Olympic dreams were shattered for a second time when the athlete unfortunately crashed at the first barrier in the 110m hurdles heats in London. The former world-record holder also had a hard time at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, when he managed just a few strides of the race before having to stop with an injury. Xiang won gold in Athens 2004.