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A tale of three torches

Locals surprised to be so close to historic flame

Although Myia Antone, Jon Rees and Joanna Schwarz are taking part in different stages of the Olympic torch relay, they are approaching the historic event with a common sense of pride.

Antone, 13, was chosen to carry the torch in Chilliwack on Feb. 7, five days before it arrives in Vancouver for the opening ceremonies. The Squamish Nation member was chosen by Aboriginal Canada after submitting an application describing her goals and interests.

Her main goal for the relay is simple: keeping the torch upright and burning bright, said Antone with a laugh.

"All my friends are telling me, don't drop the torch. But I think I probably won't," she said.

"It's a once in a lifetime chance and it hasn't really hit me that I'll be carrying it."

Antone is a Grade 8 student at Don Ross Secondary who spends most of her free time either skiing Whistler-Blackcomb, playing striker for the local U-15 Rep girls soccer team, or dancing ballet and jazz.

Antone's mom, Lauri Arneson, said her daughter deserves to carry the flame because she is a great student and an extremely hard worker.

"She always tries to do well at everything she does and she's a very neutral person. Between friends, she's always the mediator," said Arneson.

She doesn't yet have tickets to an Olympic event, but she'd like to attend an alpine skiing competition. In any case, Antone will have the ultimate Olympic souvenir, a torch, when her 300-metre jog is over. Like many of the 12,000 torch bearers, Antone and her family opted to buy the torch for about $350.

Rees, who is Mountain FM's promotions director, is also keeping his torch.

"It's such a cool souvenir piece to have," said Rees, 29.

Olympic sponsor Royal Bank of Canada chose Rees to carry the torch near Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver on Feb. 10. Although he's running the torch outside his hometown of three years, Rees has friends and family lined up to cheer him on as he savours the jog.

Rees was born in South Africa and moved to Canada at age four. He never dreamed of participating so actively in the Olympics, he said.

"To not be an athlete and born in a different country, to be a part of this huge undertaking, like, the longest torch run in Olympic history, is mind-blowing," said Rees.

Schwarz, a local photographer and musician, said she felt just as surprised to be carrying the flame. The 58-year-old was nominated by an anonymous community member to carry the torch near Brennan Park on Feb. 5, she said.

"It was her hope that it would be seen as a vote for the arts," said Schwarz, who moved to Squamish from Parksville in 1973. "It's been [more than] 30 years of working in the arts so it's a real privilege."

Schwarz is showing her work around town during the Olympics, including four canvas pieces at the Spirit of Squamish Festival's exhibit presented by VISUALS at the Upstares Galley Feb. 1 to Mar. 5.