Large earrings glistened in the sunlight under her Uygur hat as Amudu Kelimu Rena swayed her hips from side to side.
Wearing the red-and-white uniform of a torchbearer and hair down to her waist: Rena said: "I hope I will be able to do a short dance while carrying the torch."
Rena is one of 12 Muslim women who will carry the Olympic torch today in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. Eight of them are Uygurs and four belong to the Hui ethnic group. Except for one, they are all working women, aged between 18 and 39.
Maimaiti Guernuli, who is the oldest of them, is a blind singer who travels across Xinjiang to perform; Zulong Zaimina, the youngest, is a student at the Urumqi No 8 Middle School. There is also an equestrian coach, a newspaper editor, a supermarket cashier, and an athlete.
Rena is the only celebrity. Although little known elsewhere in China, she is popular in her hometown of Urumqi. She is known for her fast-paced dancing, and people say she can make more than 80, 360 degree turns without feeling dizzy.
Her pictures are everywhere on posters and advertisements in the Erdaokou area of Urumqi, where the Uygurs live in compact communities.
The 32-year-old woman took a bold step last year when she entered the nationwide contest sponsored by the Lenovo Group to become a torchbearer.
"I am a mother of three. My youngest child is 2 years old, so I spend a lot of time at home. But the Olympics is something so exciting, I want to go out and show the best side of a Uygur dancer," she said.
Rena said she was "getting more and more nervous" as the relay approaches. "My family, friends and neighbors will watch me either on the street or on TV. I want to look good."
Compared to Rena, 22-year-old Adila Ahemaiti is quiet and shy. The chemistry student at Xinjiang University comes from Kelamayi, a new city that is known for its oil fields.
"I am happy and nervous. My parents have come from Kelamayi to watch me run, and I hope that everything goes smoothly," she said.
Source: China Daily