Kylan Nieh, BS 14, spent countless hours training to be an Olympic gymnast before an injury ended that dream about six years ago. Now, in recognition of the philanthropic and entrepreneurial feats that he accomplished with the time he had previously used for training, Nieh has won the opportunity to participate in the games in another capacity: as an official torch bearer carrying the Olympic flame in London.
"It's interesting how everything takes a turn, and now I’m going to the Olympics and in a way fulfilling the dream I've had since I was a kid," says Nieh, one of 22 individuals selected by Olympic sponsor Coca-Cola to carry the torch in London in July.
The company selected torchbearers who inspire others to live positively; strive to make a positive difference in communities near and far; and are active in recycling, sustainability, or conservation programs that help the planet.
After an elbow injury just before high school ended his Olympic dreams, Nieh found himself with hours of extra free time and realized that he needed to set new goals and find new passions.
"Something that I was really grateful to do with that free time was create strong relationships with my grandparents," he says. That, in turn, led Nieh to co-found Internetting Family, a nonprofit organization that has taught hundreds of senior citizens computer skills, as well as founded WEducate, which provides educational supplies for students from low-income families. He also got involved in high school student government, becoming president; becoming a six varsity-letter athlete in track and field and gymnastics (which was less intense than his private training); and excelled in school, becoming the class valedictorian.
Nieh has brought the same energy and enthusiasm to Cal, teaching a leadership course for three semesters starting freshman year. As president of Nestlé's Very Best in Youth Foundation, he also is running a nationwide campaign to collect educational supplies to give to students in need.
Nieh's trip to London will be his first time in Europe, and he will take advantage of the opportunity to visit Germany, France, and Italy with his parents. But he's most excited about "being in the moment" as a torchbearer and representing the spirit of giving and perseverance.
"My motto in life is give to others and you will receive as well. It's reciprocity," says Nieh, who hopes to become a social entrepreneur after finishing his schooling. "Because of my injury in gymnastics, I was able to learn that. It was one of the best things that happened to me because I was really open to spreading my wings and opening my eyes to the world and learning so many new things."