Whistler's Tanya Ewasiuk Goertzen says the only way she could be more involved and invested in the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics is if she were an athlete set to compete in the Games. The local business owner has been living and breathing the Games as she prepares to carry the Olympic Torch north of Pemberton on the morning of Feb. 6.
She recently received her torchbearer's package, complete with tracksuit and cheering kit, and drove with her family to see the 300-metre route she'll run. Goertzen and her two sons, ages 5 and 7, have been training together for her segment - practicing holding their arms up as they run laps at Spring Creek Community School. And she's been following the Torch Relay online as it has made its way across Canada since Oct. 30.
"I'm so honoured and so thrilled," Goertzen said of being selected by Coca-Cola as a torchbearer. "For me it's very personal."
Having lived all her life in Vancouver and Whistler, Goertzen said she feels strongly the love of sport and pride in Canada that comes along with living in a host city. She moved to Whistler in 1991 and she and husband Rod own and run the Upper Village Market. Goertzen served on the Whistler Chamber of Commerce board for 10 years, is involved in Women of Whistler, and has run for municipal council.
She said she cried when she found out in October she'd been selected as a torchbearer. A group of at least 20 friends and family members are planning to line the street in Mount Currie to support and cheer for Goertzen as she runs.
Her involvement as a torchbearer has made the Games more real for her sons, Goertzen said, and she's glad to be able to share the experience with everyone.
"It's really brought the Olympics close to them," she said. "It's particularly poignant for them."
Goertzen is one of dozens of torchbearers set to run 300-metre segments each on Feb. 5 and 6 -days 99 and 100 of the relay - as the torch makes its way from Squamish through Whistler Olympic Park, Whistler, Pemberton, Mount Currie, Lillooet and on to Merritt.
A celebration is planned in Whistler's Village Square on Feb. 5 at 3 p.m. with a cauldron lighting, free performances by local musicians and more. As the flame makes its way through Whistler, local musicians Dana-Marie Battaglia, Greg Reamsbottom, Jon Shrier and Rachel Thom will join Barney Bentall and the Grand Cariboo Opry for a 90-minute collaborative concert.
At 6 p.m. in Skiers Plaza the Squamish Nation Eagle Song Dancers will perform, featuring singing, drumming, dancing and audience participation. Ali Milner and her band will wrap up the evening of performances.
The exact torch route through Whistler will be released to the public about 10 days before Feb. 5, but the relay will make its way through the community as part of a convoy of vehicles such as torchbearer shuttles and police cruisers. Temporary road closures are expected.
Community members and visitors of all ages are invited to line the route and cheer on the torchbearers.
"On Feb. 5, we encourage the community to come out for this emotional once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the Olympic Flame in person, celebrate the 2010 Winter Games and show support for local and other Canadian athletes," Mayor Ken Melamed said in a statement.
When the flame reaches its destination in Vancouver on Feb. 12, 12,000 people will have helped carry it more than 45,000 kilometres across the country - the longest domestic torch relay in Olympic history.
Canadian Olympic athletes who will carry the flame in Whistler Olympic Park, Whistler and Pemberton include freestyle skier John Smart, ski cross hopeful Julia Murray and Crazy Canuck Steve Podborski, as well as Mike Creery, Deb Whitten, Georgina Wheatcroft, Shannon Smith, Marion Lay and Susan Nattrass.
Whistler residents selected as local torchbearers include Andrée Janyk, Anne Hale, John Blok, Kelly Oswald, Jessie Oswald, Heather Paul, Alexandre Horobjowsky, Karine Dubreull, Carter Faulkner, Bonnie Swanson and Kathryn Kary Firstbrook. Pemberton residents who are torchbearers include William Wiltse, Karen Vinnedge and Robyn Ruholl.
Both RBC and Coca-Cola held contests last year to select torchbearers that were open to all Canadians.