The Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay officially got underway this morning with medal-winning Olympians Simon Whitfield and Catriona Le May Doan revealed as the first torchbearers to hold the Olympic Flame aloft on Canadian soil at the start of the historic 106-day journey.
They were quickly joined in their torch bearing duties by fellow Canadian Olympic medallists, rower Silken Laumann and diver Alexandre Despatie as the flame set out on Day 1 of its odyssey across Canada.
Each pair jointly held the flame as they jogged through the crowds on the grounds and nearby streets of the British Columbia Parliament Buildings in Victoria where a public welcoming ceremony was held for the arrival of the Olympic Flame from Greece.
Whitfield, a triathlon star and hometown hero in Victoria, won the first ever gold medal in triathlon at the Sydney 2000 Games and silver at the Beijing 2008 Games, while speed skater Le May Doan is the only Canadian to ever repeat as a gold medallist in two consecutive Olympic Games. Victoria rower Laumann has medalled at three Olympic Games including a courageous bronze in 1992 following a serious injury, while Despatie is a two-time medallist and the first Canadian man to win an Olympic diving medal.
The four athletes, chosen as role models who have inspired the nation, embody the Olympic Spirit and continue to make Canadians proud as they strive for excellence both on and off the field of play.
Upon the relay’s conclusion on February 12, 2010 with the start of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, the flame will have burned brightly in over 1,030 Canadian communities and reached within 900 kilometres of the North Pole.
For more information on the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay visit www.vancouver2010.com/torchrelay.