China’s Uyghur torchbearer skips press after 43rd place finish in ski race

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The Uyghur cross-country skier who stole the spotlight by walking as China’s flag bearer at the Olympics Opening Ceremony skipped out on all media appearances after finishing 43rd in her Saturday race.

China’s choice to give the honor to Dinigeer Yilamujiang, 20, of Xinjiang, stunned the world as the country hosts the games in the shadow of allegations of widespread human rights violations against Uyghurs, the Muslim, Turkic ethnic group to which Yilamujiang belongs.

Torch bearers Dinigeer Yilamujiang of Team China
Torch bearer Dinigeer Yilamujiang of Team China holds the Olympic flame during the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics at the Beijing National Stadium on February 4, 2022.
Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
Dinigeer Yilamujiang (right) of Team China reacts after the Women's Cross Country Skiathlon on Day 1 of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.
Dinigeer Yilamujiang (right) of Team China reacts after the Women’s Cross Country Skiathlon on Day 1 of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.
Wei Zheng/CHINASPORTS/VCG via Getty Images

Yilamujiang, who was largely unknown before the games, was catapulted to overnight fame in China when she carried the torch, which many saw as a rebuttal from the Chinese Communist Party’s to Western media allegations about its treatment of the minority group — including claims that it has detained hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs in labor camps.


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Many spectators expected Yilamujiang to be a continued presence throughout the games, but she finished 43rd in her Saturday race and avoided all press after the competition, the Wall Street Journal reported.

More than a dozen journalists were apparently waiting for her to show up for more than an hour after the cross-country competition, WSJ said. Although athletes are not required to talk to the press, Olympic rules mandate that they pass through the area where journalists are waiting to ask questions — Yilamujiang bypassed the area all together.

Dinigeer Yilamujiang (center)
Dinigeer Yilamujiang (center) allegedly skipped out on all media appearances after finishing 43rd in her race on February 5, 2022.
Matthias Hangst/Getty Images
Dinigeer Yilamujiang
According to the Wall Street Journal, Dinigeer Yilamujiang totally bypassed the press area after her race.
Fred Lee/Getty Images

Yilamujiang was touted by the Communist Party as a symbol of national unity, and in interviews with Chinese-run media she spoke of her patriotism and pride.

“That moment will encourage me every day for the rest of my life,” she told state-run Xinhua news. “I was so excited when I found out we were going to place the torch. It’s a huge honor for me!”

“China has done everything it can for me, and what is left for me to do now is to train hard and bring glory to the country,” the athlete told a different daily paper, the WSJ reported.

Protestors hold signs condemning China for its human rights violations ahead of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
Protestors hold signs condemning China for its human rights violations ahead of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
Michael Brochstein/ZUMA Press Wire
Yilamujiang Dinigeer
Yilamujiang Dinigeer hails from the Xinjiang providence which has gained infamy for its alleged Human rights violations.
AP Photo/Aaron Favila
Dinigeer Yilamujian (left) and Zhao Jiawen (right)
Dinigeer Yilamujian (left) and Zhao Jiawen (right) light the cauldron during the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics on February 4, 2022.
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Chinese athletes have scored two gold medals and two silver medals in the first few days of the Beijing games.

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