U.Va. First-Year Carries Olympic Torch


August 11, 2008 -- Yolanda Yixiao Min carried the Olympic Torch for only about 50 meters through Beijing last Wednesday, August 6.

But every step was filled with meaning for the student from Nanjing, China, who will enter the University of Virginia as a first-year student and Jefferson Scholar later this month.

In an e-mail following her experience, Yolanda wrote that she believes her role as an Olympic torchbearer is more than a "once-a-lifetime honor but a sign of responsibility as well."

"I will benefit more from the Olympic spirit and [will] let the passion during the torch running influence my future life and the community around me," she wrote.

"As a promising university student, I really want to share with the world our passion and dream about a better and more peaceful world. And as a Chinese student who is going to study abroad, I hope that I can bring my culture more actively to the States and to U.Va.'s campus — just like what my home country hopes to do to the Olympics: to put together the western and eastern culture in a more direct way."

Yolanda was the 218th torch bearer on August 6, just two days prior to the Opening Ceremony of Beijing Games on Friday, August 8, when the Olympic flame's months-long trek concluded in the "Bird's Nest" stadium where a former Chinese gymnast was lifted by wires to ignite the cauldron at the top of the stadium.
That ended what organizers say was the longest-ever Olympic torch relay — 137,000 kilometers around the world during 129 days. The torch arrived in China on May 4 and traveled throughout the country before arriving in Beijing on Aug. 5.

A graduate of Chaoyang Foreign Lang School, Yolanda was nominated for the honor by the Beijing Educational Committee. She subsequently submitted an essay about her thoughts of being a torchbearer. According to the official Web site of the torch relay, torchbearers were selected on a series of criteria including dedication to community service, patriotism and dedication to the Olympic movement and "remarkable feats in his/her profession or community."

Aside from her outstanding academic accomplishments, Yoland wrote that her passion for environmental issues, including her work for the "Green Olympics," a series of efforts to improve the environment, were major factors in her selection.

Among the torch bearers when the flame arrived in Beijing were China's basketball superstar Yao Ming, Turin Olympics 500-meter speed skating gold medalist Wang Meng, China's first Olympic gold medalist, sharpshooter Xu Haifeng, comedian Feng Gong, actress Song Dandan, and opera singer Dai Yuqiang.