Li Ning, a former gymnast and now a successful entrepreneur, was selected as the main torchbearer at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games, according to a press release just seen on the Games' Info system.
There will be eight torchbearers in all for the last stage of the Beijing Olympic torch relay, which is expected to enter the National Stadium, or the Bird's Nest, in north Beijing for the cauldron lighting at the end of the Games' opening ceremony.
Li had won six golds at the 1982 Gymnastics World Cup, leaving a "legend" in the history of world gymnastics.
He won three gold, two silver and one bronze medals in men's gymnastics at the 23rd Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984, making him the athlete winning the most medals at that Olympics. He became the only Asian member of the International Olympic Committee Athletes' Commission in 1987.
In 1999, he was selected as one of the Best Athletes of 20th Century in the World by the International Sports Press Association.
Li retired from the national team right after the Asian Games in Seoul in 1986. Instead of becoming a coach, he founded a sports clothes manufacturer and developed a brand with his name "Li Ning", which was chosen by the Chinese delegation at the Sydney Olympics.
The seven others are shooter Xu Haifeng, diver Gao Min, gymnast Li Xiaoshuang, weightlifter Zhan Xugang, badminton player Zhang Jun, taekwondo athlete Chen Zhong, and volleyball player Sun Jinfang, all Olympic champions of the country who had achieved great sports feats in their career.
Xu Haifeng won the individual free pistol at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. It's the first gold of that Olympics and the first gold medal in China's Olympic history.
Gao Min was the first Chinese Olympic gold medalist in springboard diving and Li Xiaoshuang, also Olympic champion, was the first Chinese athlete to claim title in the individual all-round event at the World Gymnastics Championships.
Zhang Jun and Chen Zhong are both two-time Olympic champions.
Sun Jinfang was the captain of the Chinese women's volleyball team. In the early 1980s, she helped China win the first world volleyball crown and consecutive World Cup, World Championships and Olympic Games titles.
(Xinhua News Agency August 8, 2008)