My 2002 Olympic Torch Run Experience
For those of you who know me I AM NOT an athlete. Nope. Not happening.
- I am the kid who wanted to be the score keeper in gym.
- I fell on my face (literally) in 6th grade during the hurdles on tack and field day. [In front of the ENTIRE SCHOOL]
- I volunteered to play outfield in baseball because no one could hit the ball that far and I didn’t have to run after it.
- I have been known to leave the gym because ‘I have laundry to do’.
- My philosophy of running is: Why? You just get there faster. Big deal.
This does not mean that I do not have tremendous respect and admiration for athletes. They have devotion to their sport, mental toughness and a level of health I will never know. Athletes (or at least people who exercise) get out of bed early when I am hitting my snooze alarm for the third time.
So how in the WORLD did I get to run the Olympic torch in the 2002 Olympic Torch Relay to Salt Lake City?
Matt Lauer told me too.
Well, not me directly….but more like he asked all of America.
It was fall 2001 and I was watching the TODAY show as I was getting ready for work. They were talking about the upcoming Olympics and how they were taking applications for people to participate in the torch relay race. The idea was you were suppose to nominate (in 200 words or less) someone who embodied the Olympic Spirit.
I knew exactly who I was going to nominate! One of my Chef Professors at Johnson & Wales University!
I typed my nomination and hit send. Then I instantly regretted it. I wanted to keep a copy to show him what I had typed on the off chance that he for selected. I was SURE that will the thousands of entries that the winners would not know the words that got them there.
My fuzzy recollection of the past 12 years I think this is close to what I wrote:
German born, Maser Chef Karl Guggenmos has made America his home for the past several decades. His love of culture, people and food shines through him every day in the way he interacts with his students, staff and friends. He is beyond generous with his time, knowledge and friendship with everyone he come in contact with. His sense of fair play and justice is like none I have ever been witness too. He has opened his home to me in times of need and made me feel like his family. I can’t think of anyone who embodies the Olympic spirit other than Chef Karl Guggenmos and I nominate him to run in the Olympic Torch Relay for 2002.
I hit send and hoped that some one would at least READ my email. That was all I just wanted someone to know that Chef Karl deserved to be in the torch relay.
I went about life waiting for the the Olympics and hoping I would somehow see Chef in the Alumni magazine with a picture of him running the torch.
Then the doorbell rang.
It was FedEx. I was holding in my hand an envelope. In it was a letter and some paperwork. The letterhead had the Salt Lake City Olympics logo at the top. My heart raced. I knew it! He had made the cut!!
I read the letter and it was beyond that. The committee was selecting 12,012 torch bearers and because they loved our story they were inviting ME , as the nominator, to run in the race as well!!!! There were 1,100 nominators that were going to run with there nominee.
SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!!!
I think this is when my head exploded. I was BEYOND excited that some one had read my nomination essay. I was elated that Chef Karl had gotten chosen. I was in disbelief that I was going to run too!!
Then I picked up the phone and called my mother. She had to get me to stop screaming so she could understand me. Once she understood what was happening I believe she started to laugh.
‘Sarah, do they realize WHO they have asked to do this? You? You don’t run!’ (see above)
‘Yeah…I know… but I will find a way! It is only .2 miles….I already checked’
I filled out the forms for my uniform. (I was going to get a Torch Runner uniform! Squeee!!!)
Then I picked up the phone to call Chef Karl to see if he got the same paper work. He had. He said he didn’t know if it was legit or not so he filled it out on the chance it was real. I assured him it was real, I had gotten the same paper work and I had nominated him. He thanked me and we started making plans for the Olympic Torch Relay Race.
Fast forward to December 25.
Our leg of the relay was set for December 26, 2001 in Providence, RI. Providence was they city where he was currently living and the torch was passing through on that day. So in the early afternoon of Christmas day my husband, parents and sister boarded a plane to Providence, RI. Not a typical Christmas for any of us.
So here I am. Ready to run.
I have just been dropped off by the Olympic torch runner bus. It was warm in there! They gave us all sorts of instructions about:
- What to do if the flame goes out
- What to do if someone tries to take the torch
- What to do if some one tries to put the flame out
- The history of the flame
- The route the torch was taking
- How the flame is cared for each night (people keep it lit all night via lanterns!)
It was very educational and I was THRILLED to be part of this experience.
My family was just a LITTLE excited! Check them out. My aunts and uncles came in from Pittsburg, Pa and Connecticut just to see me run .2 miles with the flame!
Here comes the hand off!
I HAVE THE OLYMPIC FLAME!!!!!
Keep in mind I have exercise induced asthma (I am running…ow), I have bronchitis, and it is about 11 degrees out. But I was channeling my inner Olympian and kept going.
Here I am sharing the flame with my torch guard. Each runner was assigned 2 guards to run with them to help ensure the safety of the flame. We were told we didn’t have to hand the torch to them but it would be nice to share the experience with them. How could I not let this person be this close to the flame and not carry it?
Here is the party that was just magical for me. Passing the Olympic flame to my mentor.
See? Even Chef Karl shared with his torch guard.
And then another .2 miles later it was all over for us.
Then it was photo op time.
We did have the option of purchasing our torches. The uniforms were free but the torches were for purchase.
Check us out!
So that is my story of how this non athlete was part of the 2002 Winter Olympics. I will never forget the expereince or hitting send on that email hoping someone would read my nomination of Chef Karl.