Chelsea, Quebec man to run with olympic fire

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by Mark Burgess on November 26, 2009

Wayne Russell of Chelsea, Quebec will carry the Olympic flame for a 300-metre stretch in Gatineau. The torch won’t be passing through his own municipality but it’s as close as it will get.

As the Canadian Olympic Committee’s treasurer – an elected, volunteer position – Russell gets the enviable honour of participating in the torch’s passage through the region Dec. 11. And when the games begin he’ll be there as well, hoping to take in some of the major events in Vancouver in February.

“It would have been really lovely to have been able to run in Chelsea, but they can’t put the torch in every community so I asked to get as close as I could,” Russell said, adding that it would have been great to get up the Gatineau River. He’ll be heading to the games at the midway point with his wife, Mary-Lynn Campbell, arriving in time to catch some of the main events – ideally the most desirable ticket of them all, the gold medal hockey game.

Russell is no stranger to major events in Canada’s sporting life. The former Newfoundlander, who moved to Chelsea seven years ago, has been involved with Hockey Canada for years, serving as chairman of its board at one time.

He coached various teams in St. John’s, from elite minor hockey to high school, and headed up Hockey Canada’s development program that was responsible for writing coach and referee manuals.

“I’ve always been involved in the game of hockey and one thing just led to another,” he said.

That involvement has allowed him to be present at some storied moments in Canada’s hockey history, including World Junior championships, but he thinks carrying the torch will rank up there with some of those moments.

“It’s one of those things that happens very rarely in life and I think it will be an incredible event,” Russell said.

While he’s looking forward to it, the 64-year-old said deferring his role to a school-aged kid had crossed his mind but the relay’s organizers want people of all ages involved.

Russell is a former teacher who went on to become the Newfoundland Teachers Association’s executive director. He currently works for an insurance company.

On Dec. 11 – the relay’s 43rd day – Russell will be clad in the Vancouver games’ Sea to Sky white and green tracksuit, with a white toque and red mittens. The torch will begin the day in Repentigny, north of Montreal, and continue up to Joliette before descending southwest to Gatineau. It will finish the day in Hawkesbury.

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