It's only a 300 meter jog, but Brittany Reimer, a seasoned veteran of international sporting events, knows better than to take a task like this lightly.
"Everbody's been kind of teasing me, saying you have to hit the gym. It's only 300 metres. I think I'll be ok. But the last thing you want is to be winded at the end of your leg – it's a little bit embarrassing!"
On Monday, Feb. 8 at 3:20 p.m, she'll carry the Olympic torch through a short slice of Surrey, as the historic, cross-Canada relay enters its final stretch to the opening ceremonies.
Reimer has known for months she would be part of the torch relay. She's running her leg along 144 Street towards 57 Ave.
It's been hard keeping the secret, admits Reimer, who proudly represented Cloverdale as the youngest member of Canada's Olympic swim team – she was just 16 – at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens.
"I've known since August and I couldn't tell anybody!" she laughs, relieved that word has leaked out.
Now aged 22 and sporting long, blonde tresses instead of a practical, pool-ready swimmers 'do, Reimer has traded the demands of the pool for the challenges of a career in real estate.
But she hasn't forgotten how the community rallied around her and her family during her intense years as a star swimmer.
That support culminated in a fundraiser that enabled her parents to travel to Greece to watch her compete, she said, praising Surrey-Cloverdale MLA Kevin Falcon for his help.
In many respects, being part of the torch relay will be a way to acknowledge all the community has done for her family.
Reimer knows her leg won't last long, but she'll definitely savour the moment.
"I think I'll be pretty emotional," she says, thinking ahead to the day she'll run with the torch. "Even thinking about it makes me nervous, makes me tear up. Obviously, to be running in it is just a huge honour."
Cheering her on will be family members from far and near, including mom Mary, who still lives in Cloverdale, where Brittany grew up, and plenty of friends. "I'll be standing, watching her go through," Mary said, describing her youngest daughter as a natural athlete who seemed to excel at every sport she tried growing up. "I'll be thinking, I'm so proud of her."
Brittany started swimming at age six and by nine she was a rising athletic star.
She lived in Cloverdale until she was 18, when she moved away in what would have been her graduating year from Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary, in order to train in Victoria.
She spent seven or eight years on the national team. "At the end, I felt like I was a veteran because I was one of the youngest on the team."
She says she was fortunate to start at a young age, and to have enjoyed a successful sporting career that took her to competitions all over the world – from Australia to Athens, where she returned home without a medal, but with a lifetime's worth of memories.
"It was really overwhelming," she said. "It's a great experience. It's obviously every athlete's dream to go there. Just for that, I was really, really grateful."
Her personal highlight came the following year, when she won silver and bronze at the 2005 World Aquatic Championships in Montreal.
Competing on home turf made a difference, she says. "When everybody was cheering in the final 15 metres, I knew they were cheering for me. It's a pretty cool feeling and it's obviously something I'll never forget."
Her heart soared with joy when she stepped onto the podium and waved out to the stands, where her parents and fans were cheering. "It felt pretty special."
That feeling is sure to give an extra boost to Canada's Olympic athletes at the 2010 games.
"I think the whole experience for them will be so exciting, having that home crowd behind you, and making it to the Olympics is such an accomplishment. To have it at home is even more special."
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