Olympic Torch Relay stops in Juneau for the first time

More than 30 Alaskans to carry torch

Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2001

Five Juneau residents and two former residents are among the group of 30 Alaskans named last week to carry the Olympic torch during the 65-day, 13,500-mile 2002 Olympic Torch Relay, which comes to Alaska for the first time.

The 30 torchbearers were among nearly 200 Alaskans nominated to carry the torch when the relay comes to Juneau on Jan. 24. Juneau residents selected include Joanna Goldman, Constance Trollan, Ray Vidic, Niall Johnson and Sabrina Richmond.

Also carrying the torch are former Juneau residents Michael Miller, who lives in Beaverton, Ore., and Wendie Marriott, who lives in Unalaska. One other Southeast resident, Jack Eddy of Petersburg, also will carry the torch.

"I keep thinking at that moment in time, when I get to run with the Olympic flame, I will be the only one in the world with that responsibility at that time," Eddy said. "I sure hope I don't fall down and put the torch out."

The list of Alaska torchbearers is expected to expand to about 45 by the time the torch makes its brief visit to Alaska, Juneau Department of Parks and Recreation Director Kim Kiefer said.

Kiefer was a member of the Juneau Community Task Force, the local committee that reviewed and ranked the Alaska nominations. The committee sent its rankings to the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, which was one of three groups to select the torchbearers. The other two organizations to select torchbearers were relay sponsors Coca-Cola and Chevrolet.

People around the country were able to nominate inspirational torchbearers by submitting e-mail messages on the Salt Lake Organizing Committee's Web site and the Web sites of the relay's sponsors. The nominations included a brief essay describing how the nominee represented the Olympic ideals and inspired their communities. About 11,500 torchbearers were selected nationwide out of more than 210,000 nominations.

"I don't know who nominated me," Vidic said. "I was totally shocked when the FedEx packet arrived. I thought it was nothing, but there was a letter from the mayor congratulating me. I feel pretty honored. I'm honored to be chosen among such a select group. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

Some of the essays described individuals who have overcome enormous challenges, and Alaska's nominees are no exception.

Col. Norman Vaughan of Anchorage is a 96-year-old former Iditarod musher who coordinates the annual Nenana Serum Run Relay. Erik Drygas of Fairbanks is a former University of Alaska Fairbanks hockey player who was paralyzed in a 1996 team practice and now coaches West Valley's high school hockey team from his wheelchair. Eddy is a teacher and running coach at Petersburg High School who is battling Parkinson's disease.

Of the Juneau residents, Richmond and Johnson are Special Olympians; Vidic works with the Southeast Alaska Cancer and Wellness Center and other community service groups; and Trollan and Goldman work in the health care industry.

Miller is a former Juneau-Douglas High School and Glacier Swim Club coach who became a cancer awareness advocate after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1996 and told he had 17-35 months left to live. Marriott is the former director of Juneau's Zach Gordon Youth Center and is now the Parks and Recreation director for Unalaska-Dutch Harbor.

Alaska has two torchbearer pairs. Goldman nominated her co-worker Trollan and they will run together. Marriott nominated Mandy Andersen of Unalaska, a 30-year-old mother who lost a leg to cancer when she was 12.

"I'm not sure how I got nominated, but it was easy to nominate Connie," Goldman said. "Connie's done an amazing amount of work in health care."

"It's quite an honor for my grandkids," Trollan said. "It's a great honor (to carry the torch) for what it means as far as peace. It's a symbol for all of us."

The other Alaskans who will carry the torch are Cathy Choi, Robert Forgit, Marietta Hall, Deana Johnson, Joy Maples, Jody McCarrey, Nick Parker, Kirsten Rasmussen, Brian Ryan, Linda Sopp, Jean Vreeman, Michelle Webb and Chuck Whelan, all of Anchorage; Dan Coleman of Eagle River; Ryan Chapman, Joy McDonald and Nicholas Pulice of Fairbanks; Jody Burcham of Kodiak; and Carolyn Lee Crusey of Wasilla.

The Olympic Torch Relay starts in Atlanta on Dec. 4 and will weave its way through 46 states on its way to the Feb. 8 opening ceremonies of the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.

In Juneau, the torch will travel from the airport to the Mendenhall Valley and through the Switzer Creek area before arriving downtown for a celebration at Centennial Hall.

Charles Bingham can be reached at cbingham@juneauempire.com.

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