While most of the attention will be directed at the Olympic Torch Relay's historic first visit to Alaska on Jan. 24, it will not be the first time Alaskans have carried the Olympic flame.
So far, at least two Alaskans have carried the torch as the 2002 Olympic Torch Relay went through Lower-48 cities, with the possibility of a third Alaskan carrying the torch later in the relay.
Carol White, who lived in Juneau and Kodiak, was the first Alaskan to carry the torch Outside. White, who is the chief of staff for Alaska U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens and a cancer survivor, carried the torch Dec. 21 in Washington, D.C. White was nominated to be a torchbearer by Salt Lake Organizing Committee Chairman Mitt Romney.
"It was absolutely unbelievable to be one of the people carrying the torch," said White, who lived in Juneau from 1976-79 when she worked for then-Gov. Jay Hammond. "I've been following the Olympics for years. I was absolutely stunned when I found out Mitt Romney nominated me. He's a wonderful person. This will be a wonderful Olympics."
White has been fighting brain cancer this past year, and she said if it wasn't so hard for her to travel she would have made the trip to Juneau for the Olympic Torch Relay's first visit to Alaska. She said the Olympic Torch Relay is a way for the whole country to join together before the Olympics. She carried the torch starting at the southeast corner of the U.S. Capitol, near the Library of Congress.
"I just think the whole torch relay, everyone appreciates it because it's closer and more hands-on for most people," White said the day before she carried the torch. "I'm glad someone will be there to support me. I'll do a brisk walk because I have trouble running with things in my hands. I just hope I don't set the city on fire. 'Light the fire within' is the perfect motto for these Olympics."
Another Alaskan who has carried the Olympic flame this year is Trajan Langdon of Anchorage, who was a torchbearer Jan. 2 when the Olympic Torch Relay was in Cleveland, Ohio.
Langdon played basketball for East Anchorage High School and Duke University before becoming the first Alaskan to make the NBA. He is a guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers and he scored two points for the Cavs that night when they beat the Golden State Warriors 113-98. The next day, Langdon went on the disabled list with a sprained ankle.
One more Alaskan might carry the torch as the flame enters Utah, but she will be in Juneau and will participate in the local Olympic Torch Relay celebration.
Hilary Lindh of Juneau, who won a silver medal in the women's downhill event in the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, is scheduled to carry the torch in Park City, Utah, where many of the Alpine ski events will take place in the 2002 Olympics. She is one of the more than 200 former Olympians who will carry the flame in the Olympic Torch Relay.
During the 1996 Olympic Torch Relay for the Summer Olympic in Atlanta, two Alaskans were able to carry the torch when it passed through Washington. Rosemary Hagevig of Juneau and Beth Galea, who lived in Juneau at the time and now lives in Anchorage, both carried the torch in 1996.
Both Hagevig and Galea have been members of the local task force that helped plan the 2002 Olympic Torch Relay's visit to Juneau.
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.
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