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Born and raised in a small city located in Southeast China, Shiling Lin found herself growing up in the capital of the sports products industry in Quanzhou. But how did she become one of the torchbearers at the 2022 Beijing Games?

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Lin was always surrounded by sports, not just because of the city she grew up in, but also because her parents worked for sports brands as equipment providers. With sports already in her sights, Lin decided to join ANTA, China’s most prominent sports brand, after she graduated from college.

“I was an overseas sports marketing representative, signing NBA players for ANTA as brand ambassadors, and conducting marketing and social strategy for the cooperation,” Lin said. “Since then, I got the chance to go to California, and I felt if I wanted to further my career in the sports industry, I must learn from the best.

While Lin was in California, she had the opportunity to network with some people from the University of San Francisco Sport Management Master’s Program. She felt it was now or never, so Lin quit her job and moved to the Golden State to get her master’s degree at USF. Lin knew she would be met with uncertainty from her parents, but she was ready to change the narrative of women in sports.

“My parents got totally confused when they knew I would join a sports brand,” Lin said. “They said men had dominated this industry for an extended period. I agreed, but I wanted to make a change. In China, not many women are passionate about joining the sports industry because they don't have the chance to experience the happiness and joy of participating in sports. When I was studying at USF…I got inspired by the organization and its "change the ratio" concept.”

In the sport management program at USF, the professors encourage students to apply for volunteering opportunities within the sporting industry, and also advise those who do volunteer to “show up to each event with enthusiasm because you never know who is watching.” With that in mind, Lin ended up applying for the IOC Young Leaders program, which required all applicants to join a six-week sprint session of Olympics background knowledge and applicants must submit a business proposal for a sports-related social business. Lin completed all that was required and was one of the lucky ones to be selected.

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Now back in her home country, Lin was doing what she loved on the biggest stage in the sporting world. As a member of the IOCYL, some of Lin’s responsibilities included creating a social business in her community that used sports to help achieve sustainable development goals including poverty alleviation, gender equality, a decent job, etc. Little did Lin know that there were eyes on her watching how she worked, and she was called up to be one of the torchbearers at the opening ceremonies of the 2022 Winter Olympics.

“The IOCYL community helps me earn this opportunity,” Lin said. “The experience of being a torchbearer is a life-changing experience. I spent two days in the bubble and was the No.16 torchbearer of Summer Palace.”

It was definitely a life-changing experience that put more pep in Lin’s step. Upon graduating from the master’s program at USF, Lin accepted an offer to get her Ph.D. in the sport management program of Isenberg Business School at UMass, which will begin in Fall 2023. In the meantime, Lin is still living in Beijing and working as a sports marketing journalist.

Even though Lin was met with friction at the beginning of her sporting career, she’s proud of how far she has come. To all the young women and girls who look to pursue a career in sports, Lin said to never give up.

“Don't quit,” Lin said. “Build your professional skills, add your personal selling skills, and be your own storyteller. Most importantly, be you.”

Photo credits: courtesy of IOC Young Leaders’ Instagram, University of San Francisco Sport Management Master's Program’s Instagram