Excited and honoured doesn’t even begin to describe how local torch bearers felt carrying the 2015 Pan Am Games torch through Chatham-Kent Tuesday.
The Pan Am Games are being held this summer in Toronto July 7-26, highlighting 36 sports with athletes from 41 Pan American nations. The Parapan Games will run Aug. 7-15.
At Pioneer Line and St. Clair Street, Kendra Shurgold, 39, of Chatham began the Chatham leg of the Relay, pumped up despite injuring her ankle only days before the event.
“Honestly, I didn’t even feel it,” Shurgold said after completing her 200 metre portion. “All I could hear was shouts of encouragement and people supporting me. This is important and only five minutes of my time. Athletes compete injured all the time and still succeed.”
As a gymnast growing up, Shurgold said she was honoured to be chosen and take part in supporting the athletes competing in the games.
“I really wanted to encourage the athletes and partake in the community spirit of this event.”
Shurgold passed the flame to local dynamo Diane Easton, who at age 77, carried the torch with the enthusiasm and joy of someone who is young at heart.
This is not Easton’s first opportunity to be a torch bearer. In 2010, she said she had the honour of carrying the Olympic torch in Blenheim, and will now have memories and mementoes of both special events.
“It’s an honour to go once, but to be chosen twice is just incredible,” Easton said. “I believe I am the oldest person in the area to carry the torch.”
Torchbearers are allowed to keep the one they carried in the relay, and Easton now has two.
The Relay continued south on St. Clair Street and included Michelle O’Rourke representing the Chatham Kent Hospice, and then made its way to the Chatham Civic Centre, where it was passed to Wheatley athlete Maddie Lavoie and her waiting dragon boat ride down the Thames River to Tecumseh Park.
The Ecole secondaire de Pain Court dragon boat team Pat a Leau, with escort from the Chatham Kent Raging Dragons and Breast Buddies teams, delivered Lavoie to the downtown Chatham festivities.
At Tecumseh Park, Chatham native Juli Elders received the flame and carried it to the lighting ceremony on the band shell stage.
The torch relay continues its journey to Windsor and then back east towards Toronto for the 2015 Pan Am Games opening ceremony July 10.