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Olympic flame illuminates performer, volunteer

Locals add torch bearer to 2010 resumé

As if sending off ski jumpers and performing at the opening Vancouver Victory Ceremonies wasn't enough, local Olympic volunteer June Kleban and fiddle phenom Jocelyn Pettit will have their hands full even before the Winter Games officially begins.

Pettit and Kleban are carrying the flame to and from Squamish on Feb. 4 and 5 before moving even deeper into the heart of the 2010 Winter Games.

Pettit, 15, was nominated by MLA Joan McIntyre to participate in the Torch Relay while Kleban, 57, won a contest run by Olympic sponsor Coca-Cola.

For Petitt, who has been performing along the corridor for years, the Torch Relay illuminates a breakthrough period in her music career. She is awaiting the Jan. 30 release of her first album and preparing to display her talents in front of 22,000 people while opening for pop star Nelly Furtado at the first medal night on Feb. 14.

Still, Petitt is more eager than intimidated to perform in front of her largest audience ever, she said, especially since she'll be sharing the stage with B.C. musician Daniel Lapp and five other young fiddlers from around the province.

"I'm very excited. I don't know what all to expect but I just think it's going to be amazing," she said. "It's going to be really amazing to be a part of this world event and performing around the area as someone from Squamish and showcasing my music."

Petitt is releasing her self-titled album at North Vancouver's Deep Cove Shaw Theatre on Jan. 30 before holding a second release show at Squamish's Eagle Eye Theatre on Feb. 5. Both shows will feature original, contemporary and traditional fiddle music with lively step dance, backed by full accompaniment and several guest musicians.

The Jocelyn Petitt Band will also be performing at several events and festivities throughout the corridor, including the main stage at the Paralympic Games in Whistler.

By that time, fellow torch bearer Kleban and her husband Stewart will have sent dozens of ski jumpers soaring over the Callaghan Valley as volunteer starters stationed at the top of the Whistler Olympic Park inrun.

"It's absolutely the best view ever. And these athletes are just amazing," she said.

Like the torch she will be carrying, Kleban lights up when she talks about tracking the flame along its entire journey across Canada. She follows the torch every day and can't wait until it's her own smiling face bared below its glow.

"I get emotional every time I see the flame, but I'm just so excited to be a part of the journey of the flame. I can't be an athlete, but I can cheer them on. And just to carry that flame means everything," she said.

Kleban moved to Squamish from North Vancouver three years ago and quickly became immersed in the community. She is involved in the Wonderful Older Women biking group, the OHH hiking group, Whistler Mountain Safety, the Whistler Senior Ski Team and volunteered for the Callaghan Valley Local Organizing Committee (CALOC) on her way to becoming an Olympic volunteer.

"I love being outside," she said, adding that she took up running at the age of 49 and ran her first half marathon when she turned 50. She has since ran six marathons and coaches others to reach their running goals.

Most recently, she's been practicing for the big day by running along the Mamquam channels, smiling and pretending to hold the torch up high.

"I can't imagine," she said of the upcoming experience. "I'm sure there will be tears of joy."

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