McGill student lights up the Olympic Games

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Most footage of the Olympic Torch Relay showcases celebrity athletes or political figures dutifully passing the Olympic flame in front of hundreds of cameras. While Olympians may be the only ones allowed to light the cauldron at the opening ceremonies, the Torch Relay consists of over 12,000 torchbearers, most of them non-athletes. Even so, opportunities to pass the Olympic flame are hard to come by. But a couple weeks after the flame passed through Montreal, Tova Silverman, U3 world religions, got to leave her own mark on the Games.

After winning an iCoke contest, Silverman carried the flame through Collingwood, Ontario. As part of the selection process, Silverman had to pass several rounds, answering trivia questions and writing an essay about how she is active and reduces her carbon footprint in her day-to-day life. Silver is an avid runner, and also wrote about her love of camping and the outdoors in the competition’s essay.

The Olympic Flame arrived in Victoria, B.C., on October 30, and will pass through every Canadian province and territory, travelling as far north as Inuvik, NT, before arriving in Vancouver on February 12. The tradition of the Torch Relay dates back to the 1936 Berlin Olympics and has become a symbol for the unification of a country before the Olympic Games.

“It was a very empowering experience,” said Silverman. “I was representing Canada in that moment, holding the Olympic flame.”

A crowd of 75 gathered in Collingwood early on the morning of December 29 to watch the passing of the iconic torch.

“When the flame was actually lit everyone lit up and was so excited,” she said. Silverman described the experience as a great opportunity to bring the Olympic Games to all parts of the country. “I was really happy to be the representative to bring that spirit to all of the people there,” she said.

Silverman got to carry the torch for 300 metres – just a few minutes – but that short time will last much longer in her memory.

In addition to other iCoke winners, Silverman met three Olympians who also carried the torch through Collingwood.

“There was a triathlete, a snowboarder on the Canadian Olympic team, and a paralympic alpine skier,” said Silverman. “The snowboarder and the skier skied and snowboarded the torch down and passed it to each other on the mountain. It was really cool to see.”

The Olympic Flame will complete its journey in a few weeks, arriving in Vancouver on February 12 for the opening ceremonies. The 2010 Olympics will run until Feb. 28.