It may have been the ovation that greeted Jujie Luan as she entered the Olympic Fencing Hall followed by the chanting and applause with every successful hit.
Or maybe, it was the flurry of interest from Chinese media, which forced the Canadian fencer to hold a formal press conference after suffering elimination from the medal hunt on Monday after only two bouts.
But likely, what truly cemented Luan's celebrity status here - at least for members of the foreign press in Beijing - was the cry of her 14-year-old daughter, Jerrica Gu, when Chinese reporters rushed to surround the teen frantic for photos and quotes.
"Mama," the teen screamed before fleeing the room.
Luan captured Olympic gold in the foil event for China in Los Angeles in 1984 - a first for her country in fencing - but made the pilgrimage to her homeland to compete for her adopted country at the age of 50.
Hers is an inspired story. A fencing icon in China, Luan moved to Edmonton in 1989 after falling in love with the city during a competition years earlier. She plucked away at the sport as a competitor, before retiring, and then as coach as she raised a family. She hauled herself out of retirement to travel the world in order to qualify for the Canadian Olympic team and the chance to compete in Beijing, her fourth Games.
"At this Olympic Games, everybody knows I'm 50 so when I'm in the piste, it doesn't matter if I win or lose, I want to show people I'm still young," she said, "I think I'm doing not too bad."
Indeed, the world's 107th ranked fencer controlled her slow, methodical first bout against 36th ranked Tunisian fencer Ines Bourbakri, who also happens to be only 19.
Luan, a left-handed fencer, expected to face a young, fast-footed opponent - another southpaw - but shrugged off the test. "I said it doesn't matter, when we put on the mask, we'll fence," she explained.
Luan wore Bourbakri down, taunted her to take the blade and let the clock run out to win 13-9 after three rounds.
Spectators applauded her performance and erupted when Luan reached into a bag held up a red flag with yellow Chinese characters. Roughly translated, it said "Welcome homeland" or "Hello motherland".
Coaches for the Japanese and French teams soon approached to tell Luan how proud they were of her performance. Around the hall, competitors spoke about Luan's legendary status and the honour to even fence in the same room as her.
Dashan, an entertainer considered "the most famous foreigner in China," was also in the stands.
Dashan's other identity is Mark Rowswell, who is a little known Canadian when he is at home in Canada. But he has lived in China for two decades, is fluent in Chinese and was tapped to be the Canadian Olympic Committee's "cultural attaché" at these Olympics. "This is the No. 1 story for all of Team Canada at these Games from the Chinese perspective," he explained later, as a swell of Chinese reporters waited for interviews and take pictures of their brush with fame.
"The gold medalists in China are all household names really so she's a big star here," he added. "This is a great story for Canada and for China."
The 64-woman field, now whittled down to 32, put Luan up against Aida Mohamed, a 32-year-old from Hungary, who is ranked No. 7 in the world.
To chants of "go Luan Jujie go" in Chinese and "go Canada" in English, the pace quickened.
Mohamed, another leftie, kept Luan back on her heels. The veteran quickly lost ground and gave up hits. Luan's Olympic dream ended with a 15-7 loss to warm applause, but she said later she had no regrets.
"It's over, but this one was very special for me because it's an Olympics in China," she said.
Luan spent thousands of dollars to qualify for the Games, left her husband, Dajin Gu, 50, back in Edmonton to tend to their three children, Jerrica, Daniel, 10, and Jessica, 17, who has Down Syndrome.
The entire family made the trip to Beijing to cheer her on - efforts not lost on Luan.
"He make me relax. He make me concentrate. He supports me lots," Luan said, turning sweetly to her husband to add, "So thank you so much."
"You are great," he replied.
Later he scrutinized his wife's performance, said it was a thrill to watch he compete and expressed no misgivings about the family's long road to Beijing. "So she could be here, we would do anything for her," he said.
In a hallway, Jerrica, herself an up-and-coming fencer with her eye on London in 2012, sat slouched on couch, holding court with the press. "I never really thought of my mom as you know a famous person or anything and like I've never been like amazed at like all the stories because she's my mom right, she's just like another person, but so like, wait what was the question again?" she said, a little overwhelmed by the attention.
Still, Jerrica, who wasn't around to see her mother win gold or compete in Seoul in 1988 and was too young to remember the 2000 Games in Sydney, said this Olympic experience has been inspiring.
"I've seen how much she's been through and one of her dreams she's told me now is she wants me to go to the Olympics too because she's going to be really old and I don't want her trying again," she said laughing, "One of the main reasons I want to go to the Olympics one day is for her because it's her wishes and she's done so much for me so I think I can do something for her."
This may not be the last the fencing world hears of Luan. She's planning to set up a fencing school in her name in Shanghai and compete in the world masters championships this fall itching for gold.
About that flag she raised on the fencing floor?
It was a token of her appreciation to the Chinese government for supporting her career, fencing fans who packed the hall and ordinary citizens who still remember her when she walks down the street.
"After 24 years I can come back," she said, referring to her Olympic win in Los Angeles, "I still have the technique and my experience, so I still have a chance to thank you."