“The amazing experience,” is how Sue Heaton describes her moment carrying the Olympic flame part of the way through Castlegar on Jan. 24.
The Olympic flame is passed from torchbearer to torchbearer as it travels through approximately 1,000 communities in Canada on its way to Vancouver. Heaton was one of more than 12,000 people who will have the honour of being selected as an Olympic torchbearer.
Heaton ran from the Chopsticks restaurant to the Pioneer Arena.
“You just kind of realize that flame is bigger than yourself,” said Heaton.
“I actually had a moment where my torch was lit, and I just stood there and thought, ‘You know what, this is bigger than me, it’s uniting a country and hopefully it will unite the world in a really turbulent time.’ I just kind of thought about those thoughts.”
She described her experience running with the torch. “You think all eyes are on you. When my flame was lit, there was a lot of people where I was running, on both sides. So I turned to them so they could take photos on the other side.”
“At one moment, one of the security people said, ‘Come on Sue, it’s your time to move,” and I looked at him and I said, ‘You know what? This is my moment. I’m going to enjoy it as long as I can.’ He just started laughing, but then I went. But that was probably only 45 seconds,” Heaton recalled.
“You just kind of felt the eyes of the nation on you with hope. They talk about unity and brotherhood. That’s kind of what you feel. It’s done with a blink of an eye — you’re done,” she said.
Heaton has lived in Castlegar since 1988. “I actually came from Quesnel, the Cariboo, to go to school here and I’ve never moved back. I call it God’s country.”
Heaton was chosen to fill one of 20 torchbearer positions assigned to her employer’s company. “I was really fortunate,” she said.
Heaton was nominated and then had to write a small statement on her own behalf for the selection process. Getting to run with the torch was important to Heaton.
“I’m really involved in our community, especially where kids are concerned, and I want to show them that dreams come true. That if you dream big, it’ll come true; because they’re our leaders for tomorrow,” she explained.
The week before the torch rally, Heaton took her torch to elementary schools in Castlegar along with another torchbearer. They ran by the school and up the steps with their torches. The students were all waiting for them.
“They were outside with their piano singing O Canada. I actually had a tear in my eye, because here’s these kids, so proud to be Canadian. And they were so excited to see the torch,” said Heaton.
“It was just amazing, an amazing experience.”
Grade 2 students made little torches with the words “I have a dream” written on them. The students then wrote their individual dreams on the backsides of the torch.
“To me, that’s what the Olympics are about,” said Heaton.