Olympic Torch Relay Enters Final Leg in Quake-battered Sichuan

The Olympic torch relay started on Tuesday in Chengdu, capital of the quake-battered Sichuan Province, the last leg of its tour outside the host city Beijing.

The Chengdu leg of the torch relay began at 8:10 AM, with former Olympic gold medalist Zhang Shan being the first torchbearer.

Zhang claimed gold in the skeet event at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 and has since continued her training at a sports school in Sichuan.

She failed to enter the Beijing Games after losing to her teammate Wei Ning in qualification round. Wei, 26, was runner-up in the Athens Games of 2004.

"If the Beijing Games were an endpoint in my own Olympic career, then I hope the Games will be the starting point for the young people," said Zhang, 40.

As deputy chairwoman of the provincial youth federation, Zhang has taken an active part in the relief work after the devastating earthquake of May 12. She has donated blood, cash, relief materials and helped quake-battered counties to rebuild schools.

Altogether 315 torchbearers will run along the 13.2-kilometer relay route in Chengdu, a city that enjoys more than 4,500 years of civilization and is home to the endangered giant pandas.

After Sichuan, the Olympic flame will be relayed in Beijing from Wednesday to Friday before the opening of the Games.

(Xinhua News Agency August 5, 2008)

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