Friday, December 5, 2008

World is not enough for a true beauty

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By Lin Shujuan (China Daily)

Miss World managed what nobody else could at the Beijing Olympics ... she made Usain Bolt feel second best. Zhang Zilin has told how she befriended the record-breaking Jamaican star of Beijing 2008.

During one meeting, the giant 1.96m-tall Bolt confessed to feeling "well beaten" in her presence because she was even taller than him in her high heels.

As Zhang prepares to hand over her crown in Johannesburg, South Africa, next Saturday, she has been looking back on her triumphant year as China's first Miss World.

It coincided with the Olympics being staged in her hometown, a godsend for Zhang, who is a former track and field star and trained professionally at the same academy as Olympic champion Liu Xiang.

She was crowned the 57th Miss World on Dec 1 last year in Sanya, Hainan province, and says the year's flown by.

"I have enjoyed a wonderful year as Miss World," she says. "But I can't be Miss World all the time. It is like the torch relay - on the one hand, I feel like covering the whole distance on my own, yet on the other hand, I understand it would be meaningless to have one person on the whole relay.

"It is far more important to complete your own run than anything else. It is such a relief for me to realize now that so far I have done well."

Over the past year, Zhang has traveled to more than 20 countries, raising funds for poor children, HIV/AIDS patients and Sichuan earthquake victims. So far, she has helped raise a record $30 million-plus.

As a former hurdler she had always wanted to be a torchbearer for the Beijing Olympics and as Miss World, she not only fulfilled this dream but also watched her favorite track and field events in the Bird's Nest.

The 182-m tall Zhang is still head and shoulders above many of the 112 beauties competing at Miss World 2008.

She has been mixing with them and helping to organize this year's event, saying: "Through them, I see myself a year ago." Her only advice to contestants? "Enjoy it."

She has not mapped out her life when her reign as Miss World is over but is sure about two things. "I will continue with my charity work whenever possible," she says. "I've come to discover far more people in need than I expected.

"At the same time, I will quit full-time modeling."

The 24-year-old has recently become the new face of L'Oreal (pictured) in Asia and with a high-profile CV, including China's first Miss World, a degree from one of China's premier universities, a sporty figure and 12 years of amateur athletics training, Zhang has a promising future.

For the moment, though, she says she will take some time off after such a busy year.

In her personal blog, where she shares her daily encounters and photos with friends and fans, she reveals her favorite way to enjoy leisure to be "cuddling in a big and soft sofa, watching TV or listening to music or reading, with my pet dog Yoyo sitting by me."

"I can do with a break after this (the final) is over," she says. "Then I will think about my future."

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