ARTICLE 6 comments
11/2 2009

Torch Experience (runner 007)

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I thought that I knew what I was in for. I figured it would be impossible to surprise me – surely by now, with 3 Olympics under my belt, I’d experienced it all. Boy, was I wrong. The blue bridge, the Johnson Street Bridge, will forever be a part of my Olympic experience now – unique in every way.

When Rob Reed (runner 006) came up to me, carrying the Olympic flame, I could feel my excitement building. Then the RCMP officer turned my torch on. Propane flowing, Rob passed the flame from his torch to mine. Awkwardly, each carrying a flaming torch, we embraced. Then I turned, and I was on my own. I was holding the flame. For 300 metres I was the chosen ambassador, holding a symbol of hope and inspiration. As I slowly crossed the bridge, waving to friends and strangers alike, the significance of the flame, of the games-to-come was reaffirmed in my head. All the choices I’d made over my life to pursue Olympic excellence amounted to more than just financial debt and an incredibly patient family. In that moment of reverence I saw how my unique role plugs into the bigger picture. What I do and how I act matters, and it makes a difference. Thousands of Olympic athletes, me included, and our stories really do have the potential to inspire and engage an up-and-coming generation; we can help them realize that they can accomplish anything they want.

It all hit me:

The generation my children belong to has a shorter life-expectancy than my own. This is a first – and it’s disturbing. Processed foods, video games and the societal fear of letting children venture outdoors alone have all helped to create a prison for our kids. Promoting a sedentary life, in which the TV babysits and in part educates our children’s choices. How do we break free of this trap? I looked up at that flame – burning bright – and saw a symbol that could ignite the imagination of that generation – a symbol that could get kids off the couch and onto the field of play.

This flame, for the few steps I held, is calling the best athletes from around the globe to British Columbia. Their stories of struggle, dedication and perseverance will be showcased for everyone to see. Their dreams will dangle in the balance, some will be realized, while most will be delayed by 4 years (and in some cases forever).

Then it all came home – I came to the end of the bridge deck and saw my 5-year-old cheering me on. A wave of emotion hit me like a ton of bricks and I started to tear up. If there is one thing I have taught my daughter through the actions I’ve taken in my life it is not to be afraid to dream a wild and crazy dream, and to pursue that dream to the ends of the earth with an unwavering self belief – even if it takes 22 years. My example has been through sport – but she knows her dream can be anything she wants.

I was disappointed to hear that 10 torch bearers could not run their 300 metres in Victoria on day 1 of the relay; not because I don’t support the right to protest, but because of the lost opportunity for those 10 people to inspire the people in their lives.

The Olympics are coming to BC, like it or not. We all have a choice now. Let’s use the opportunities the games offer to enrich our society and to create lasting legacies for future generations. The Olympics provide a stage in which, creatively and constructively, almost any cause can be furthered. But above all else, let’s reverse the state in which we find our young people.

If you object, please do so respectfully: don’t ruin someone else’s dream.


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