Though she doesn't enter Vancouver as the reigning Olympic champion or reigning World Cup champion, a case can be made that Nina Li is the top ladies' aerialist in the world. That distinction comes from the fact that Li - who will be 27 in Vancouver - is the three-time reigning world champion. In addition, she won Olympic silver at the Torino Games and has finished as runner-up in the World Cup aerials standings two of the past three seasons. She made her Olympic debut in Salt Lake City as a 19-year-old, placing fifth in aerials at the 2002 Games.
Li's career as an aerialist can be traced back to her background in acrobatics, the branch of gymnastics famous for human tower formations. When she was younger, Li performed acrobatics with Chinese aerialist Xu Nannan, who won the country's first skiing medal (silver) in Nagano. Li has been deemed the successor to Xu, who finished fourth at the Torino Games but has since retired. Both hail from the town of Benxi in the Liaoning province. Li started doing aerials when the daughter of one of her mother's friends brought her along to try out the sport.