The stars of the Beijing 2008: where are they now?

We look at what became of the class of '08

Image: Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil via Wikimedia Commons
As is the case with most major sporting events, the Beijing Olympic games made household names of young sportsmen and women, as well as many other figures who made their way onto stage and screen over the two-week bonanza. Global superstars were born, but what became of the class of '08? We look at the fortunes – and you better believe some of them have made a serious fortune – of just a few of those stars in the decade since.

Michael Phelps

Image: Bryan Allison via Wikimedia Commons

The star of the show. The American swimmer took home an auspicious, and unprecedented, eight gold medals at Beijing 2008. Killed it in London and Rio too to become the most decorated Olympian of all time with 28 medals. Now retired at the age of just 33. Not bad.

Usain Bolt

Image: Richard Giles via Wikimedia Commons

The Lightning Bolt. Beat his own Beijing-set world records in 2009, down to 9.58s (100m) and 19.19s (200m). Returned to Beijing in 2015 and got run over by a Segway. Unrelated to said accident, he retired in 2017, as the only sprinter to win Olympic 100m and 200m golds at three consecutive Olympics (2008, 2012 and 2016). Now seemingly trying his hand at every other sport, particularly football.

Liu Xiang

Image: Erik van Leeuwen via Wikimedia Commons

China’s ‘Flying Man’. Having won gold in Athens, the 110-metre hurdler was the poster boy for 2008, carrying the hopes of a nation. Tears streamed when he pulled out on the Beijing track due to an Achilles tendon injury. That same Achilles would strike again at London 2012. Retired in 2015.

He Kexin

He_Kexin 2
Image: Tksteven via Wikimedia Commons

The young Chinese gymnast was at the centre of controversy in 2008. Officially listed as 16 at the games, doubts were raised that she may actually have been an ineligible 14. Regardless, she won two golds, and added a silver in 2012, before retiring and going to study at Beijing Normal University. Now 26. Haters will say 24.

Hu Jintao

Image: Dilma Rousseff via Wikimedia Commons

China’s president in 2008. Predecessor Jiang Zemin secured the games, but it was Hu’s government that saw it to completion, and laid the way for today’s China. Now 75, he’s almost fully disappeared from the scene since stepping down in 2012. Some guy called Xi replaced him.

Lin Miaoke

Image: Lin Miaoke via Twitter

Lin Miaoke, then aged nine, was deemed sufficiently cute to be the performer of the ‘Ode to the Motherland’ at the opening ceremony. Media declared scandal when it turned out she mimed, having replaced the apparently not-so-cute, but vocally superior Yang Peiyi late in the day. ‘We must put our country's interest first,’ musical director Chen Qigang said at the time. Lin now studies in Nanjing apparently, while Yang's whereabouts is unknown.
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