Six months after she was crowned the 57th Miss World and became the first Chinese to win the title, Zhang Zilin will return to Sanya to take on a new role.
On May 4, when the Olympic torch arrives in Sanya for its first leg of the domestic relay, Zhang will be running together with Chinese NBA star Yi Jianlian and many other celebrities.
"I will finally be a torch bearer," the excited Miss World tells China Daily.
Ever since Beijing won its Olympics bid, Zhang, then an amateur athlete who had briefly trained with world champion hurdler Liu Xiang, had longed to be a torch bearer for the Beijing Olympics.
"To be part of the Olympics is a dream for almost everyone on the earth," says Zhang. "I can feel the enthusiasm of millions of others from my recent trips to various countries across the world."
As Miss World, Zhang has been invited to visit 57 different destinations across the world to raise funds for poor children. Over the past four months, she had traveled to many countries including South Korea, Ireland and the Czech Republic. Her recent visit to Iowa, in the United States, helped raised $3.46 million for Variety - The Children's Charity.
Apart from improving her English on these overseas tours, Zhang, a college graduate from Beijing University of Science and Technology, says the journey has exposed her to far more people in need than she had expected.
"I hadn't thought about what I would do after my duty as Miss World is over," she says. "Yet on my recent birthday, you know, an occasion when this sort of question would bump into your mind, this idea came to me."
Zhang celebrated her 24th birthday on March 22, the day she shot a music video for The World Follows Me, the torch relay song sung by Zhang and other four models for the Beijing Olympics.
"This had been the most special birthday celebration for me," she says. "While I was fulfilling my duty as Miss World, I feel myself like an ambassador for the Olympics."
During most of her interviews and visits, Zhang says she is always asked questions about the upcoming Games.
"There are always gestures of good will when they bring up the topic, and from time to time, there is a strong sense of curiosity," she says. "They simply can't associate me with one who has a 12-year experience as an amateur athlete."
(China Daily 04/22/2008 page18)