Gymnast Li Ning became a national hero by sweeping three gold medals at the Log Angeles Games where the new China made a stunning Olympic appearance that ended the country's three-decade-long Olympics isolation.
On Friday night, the athlete-turned-entrepreneur lighted the Olympic cauldron.
Li leaped 24 years to embrace a flourishing business, a period in which reforms and opening up powered the ancient land into modernization.
Hailed as "the prince of Chinese gymnastics", Li had garnered 106 golds on national and international arena during 17 years as a competitor.
He peaked in the Los Angeles Games, winning three golds, two silvers and one bronze, becoming the most-medaled athlete in that games.
But his ability to represent a newer, more confident nation was not confined to the pommel horse and the rings.
Staying true to the Olympic motto "Faster, Higher, Stronger", Li never falls short of challenging himself but sets sight on a bigger picture.
In 1986, Li Ning retired from the national team right after the Asian Games in Seoul but did not become coach as expected.
Shifting his interest to business, he started his own company producing sportswear, astute enough to take advantage of his own fame.
In fact, Li-Ning sportswear quickly became the symbol of sports in China.
Li Ning lights cauldron of Beijing Olympic Games
At the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Li-Ning, which has worked closely with the Chinese Olympic Committee since its earliest days, was chosen to clothe the Chinese delegation.
By 1995, Li-Ning had emerged as a frontrunner in China's sporting goods industry. In 2005, with Li-Ning still in the lead and sales hitting record highs, it set its sight on becoming a top international brand.
Born in 1963 in the city of Guilin, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in south China, Li Ning took up gymnastics at the age of eight.
Recruited at 17 by the national team, Li snatched six gold medals at the the World Cup in Zagreb in October 1982.
In 1987, Li became the only Asian member of Athlete Commission of the International Olympic Committee.
From 1993 to 2000, he had served as a member of the Men's Artistic Gymnastics Technical Committee of the Federation Internationale De Gymnastique.
Li was voted in 1999 one of the world's Top Athletes in the 20th Century by the World Sports Correspondent Association.
Li took a bachelor degree in law from Peking University in 1998 and completed the MBA program at Guanghua School of Management of Peking University in 2002.
As Li-Ning's slogan "Anything Is Possible" goes, Li Ning is again in the spotlight of the world.
(Xinhua News Agency August 8,2008)