Gusts of chilly wind wrestled with the flame, but the warmth of Olympic spirit won the match.
Twenty-two law enforcement officers from across the nation and Europe plus two Special Olympics athletes carried the torch the 10 miles from the Juneau Airport to the steps of the Capitol at noon Thursday. This was the final leg of the torch run as it blazed its symbolic way from Kodiak to Soldotna to Sitka to Kenai, Seward, Fairbanks, Barrow, Palmer and Wasilla, said coordinator John Glass.
The Olympians participating were Mike Mulachy, a skier from Anchorage, and Valentinus Robinson, a runner from Jamaica.
Robinson, who celebrates his 25th birthday March 13, demonstrated his speed at the 1995 World Games in Connecticut, winning two golds and one silver. He is so talented a runner that he was in final tryouts for Jamaica's International Olympic team.
Mulachy, 31, participated in basketball and swimming at Alaska's summer games, and was excited about "running with the officers for the first time." During his 10 years with Special Olympics, he has taken home 10 gold medals, he said.
"Special Olympics is an inspiration to all of us, because all of us can achieve our goals if we set them and we dare to dream," said Mayor Sally Smith.
Brian Porter, speaker of the House and a former Anchorage police chief, served as master of ceremonies for the torch's arrival. Porter complimented the state Department of Public Safety on its "tremendous effort all these years" to promote Special Olympics.
Sen. Lyda Green, a Wasilla Republican, honored "the guardians of the flame" with a special legislative declaration.
Law enforcement officers in custom blue and black jackets bearing the words "Final Leg Torch Run" had flown into Juneau to participate. They came from Rhode Island, Mississippi, Idaho, Wyoming, New Jersey, North Carolina, Arizona, Utah, the Netherlands and Ireland, and were led by Alaska State Trooper Sgt. Brandon Anderson of Seward.
Carrot-top Mick Feehan, 41, an inspector with the Irish Police Force in Dublin, loomed over the crowd at 6 feet, 3 inches. Feehan trotted out his standard joke for all comers: "In Dublin when you land at the airport you can get taxi service into town. Here we had to run 10 miles. But we're delighted."
Juneau athletes participating in Winter Games 2001, which begins in Anchorage on Sunday, are Carl Behnert, Niall Johnson, Evvanne Menefee, Sara Muehlberg, John Magalotti and Justin Roberts. All will be profiled Sunday in the Empire's Inside section. Johnson will use the torch to light the cauldron at the opening ceremonies.