More MS news articles for Oct 2001

Former Olympians Will Get Chance to Carry the Torch Across the U.S.

Friday, October 5, 2001

Four decades ago, at the opening of the only other Winter Olympics held in the western United States, Andrea Mead Lawrence skied down Papoose Peak at Squaw Valley, Calif., with the Olympic torch in hand.

She passed it to speedskater Ken Henry, who lighted the caldron to open the 1960 Games.

This winter, the American skiing icon will be carrying the Olympic torch again.

Lawrence, the only U.S. skier to win two gold medals in one Olympics (in 1952 in Oslo), was one of several Olympians named Thursday as bearers of the torch on its two-month journey across the United States ending in Salt Lake City in February.

"The fun story about 1960," she recalled from California on Thursday, "is that I was pregnant with my last and fifth child, Quentin, who happens to be living in Salt Lake City now. So I thought that was pretty nice, and I suggested to the Olympic committee that I really should do this part of the torch run somewhere in the Olympic Valley [Calif.], because that's where I did it in 1960 and she [Quentin] was with me at the time."

Lawrence, who lives in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., said of her selection (on Quentin's nomination): "Of course, it's an honor to be doing it. You never quite lose all your idealism about the Olympics, even though the world has changed so dramatically -- even before Sept. 11."

"Honored" is also the word used by Tina Noyes, a U.S. Olympic figure skater in 1964 and 1968 who will carry the torch in her native Boston area during the week between Christmas and New Year's. She said, "We all know the Olympics are going to be in Salt Lake. But it won't really touch the people here in New England until they see the Olympic torch running through Massachusetts. That's when it really brings the Olympics to everyone."

Noyes, who was nominated by her fiance, has had past experience with Olympic torches. In 1984, when an Olympic soccer competition was held at Harvard Stadium, she participated in a smaller-scale torch run in Cambridge, Mass. Then, in 1996, she did a leg of the Atlanta torch run in Boston, where she handed the torch to wheelchair-bound Travis Roy, the young hockey player who was injured in his first game at Boston University.

"That was quite a moment for me, one I will honestly never forget," Noyes said.

Two former Winter Olympic skiers will have assistance when they help transport the torch through Colorado on the homestretch to Utah.

Dick Durrance, who competed in the 1936 Winter Olympics and is recognized as one of America's ski-racing pioneers, will carry the torch near his hometown of Carbondale, "but since I walk with a cane, I think they're going to put me in a buggy or something." Asked if he still skis, Durrance said, "I'm 87, so I don't run around like crazy."

Jimmie Heuga, who won a bronze medal in the slalom in the 1964 Olympics, will be in a wheelchair when he gets his turn with the torch near Vail. Heuga was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 30 years ago, and two years ago, he moved into an assisted-living facility near Boulder, because, he said, "I need a lot of help."

Heuga said he has never participated in a torch relay before. Asked about the chance to do it this time, he said, "I'd be honored."

Among the Summer Olympians whose names appear on the list of torchbearers are: 1960 decathlon champion Rafer Johnson, who lighted the flame for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics; swimming gold medalists John Naber and Megan Quann, and Greco-Roman wrestlers Matt Ghaffari and Rulon Gardner.