GUANGZHOU - Ding Ling's dream of becoming Miss Etiquette for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games was dashed because she was only 16 years old at the time.
She kept the hope alive, however, and on Saturday she will escort VIPs to present the very first gold medal for the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou.
"I feel very excited and a bit nervous," said Ding, from Ma'anshan, Anhui province, who will serve as one of 380 etiquette angels at 476 award ceremonies during the Asian Games (Nov 12-27) and Asian Para Games (Dec 12-19).
Aged between 17 and 25, the etiquette angels come mostly from universities in 90 cities with a few others being stewardesses, translators and white-collar workers.
Between 168 cm and 178 cm tall, they were chosen not only for their appearance but also for their spirit of teamwork, discipline and temperament, according to the organizing committee of the Games.
A 40-day intensive training course was required before they could finally become Miss Etiquettes. That was a hard period, Ding said.
"We held a medal tray carrying six full bottles of mineral water for up to half an hour each time," said Ding, a freshman who is training to be a stewardess.
"The first time I was finally able to lay down the tray, my arm was so sore I couldn't stop crying."
They also had to stand for at least one hour at a time without dropping a sheet of paper between their legs and a book on their heads. At times, they repeated such training sessions eight times a day.
And there was smile training. Traditional Chinese deem it ungraceful for a woman to reveal her teeth while smiling. If she laughs, she should cover her mouth with a handkerchief or a silk fan.
But that's not the kind of etiquette the Asiad is asking for from their ceremonial angels.
"We have to reveal at least four teeth while smiling," Ding said.
Ding admitted that it was quite a challenge at the beginning, but she gradually got used to it with the help of a spoon placed in her mouth.
"And our teacher, who is very funny, kept telling us jokes," Ding said. "In the end, I even got a cramp from laughing too much."
The most difficult part for Ding was the ballet training session, as with no previous training her body was not flexible enough. She also had to learn to sit up straight.
Besides elegance training, they learned how to provide volunteer assistance, and received some training in music, English, communication skills and the ABCs of the Games.
"I learned about a lot of things that I don't learn at school," said Ding.
Ding added she is especially glad to know that her parents are so proud of her that they keep mentioning her as a model for her younger sister to follow.
"I will do my best, just like other volunteers," she said.