ACSM President Refelcts on Olympic Torchbearer Experience
On Tuesday, Jan. 19, ACSM President Jim Pivarnik, Ph.D., FACSM, carried the Olympic torch in Strathmore, Alberta, Canada (near Calgary). President Pivarnik was one of several ACSM members who participated in the historic relay. Here, President Pivarnik shares an insider's view of his torchbearer experience.
Q: What notable names did you have a chance to meet during your visit to Calgary?
A: Certainly Elizabeth Nabel (former Director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute), Judith Palfrey (President of the American Academy of Pediatrics), and Jess Pavlinac (President of the American Dietetic Association) come to mind from a professional perspective. For instance, I had a nice chat with Dr. Palfrey about ACSM and AAP increasing our collaborations, and Jess Pavlinac even said at the after-party that our little "hip bump" [as she was handing the torch to me] signified our two organizations working more closely together! And the teens that ran the torch with us – man, if they represent the future of this country, we are in good shape!
Q: The sidewalks of Strathmore looked crowded during your run. What was it like to be cheered on by so many Canadians lining the streets?
A: It was amazing. I think they let all the schools out, and it seemed like every kid in Alberta was cheering us on. I actually ran on Highway One, the transCanadian highway. It's not every day they close that road for a runner. Amazing.
Q: What were your thoughts during the actual torch run? Did the moment seem to fly by too quickly?
A: Actually, I ended up running 400 meters rather than [the planned] 300, but if you ask me, I believe I set a world record for the distance! It passed by way too quickly. “Surreal” is the best way to describe the run.
Q: Before and after the relay, what sorts of special events were you able to attend?
A: The night before, there was a large celebration in downtown Calgary at the 1988 Olympic Plaza to greet the torch arrival. Wonderful crowd. After the event, we had a very nice dinner and party, and we saw a preview of some of the many, many pictures taken by the photographer provided by Coca-Cola. Considering the time constraints to edit the piece, it was outstanding. I can't wait to see the rest of the pictures.
Q: If you had to choose one favorite moment from the entire torchbearer experience, what would it be?
A: There were many great moments. Having all the Canadians we met on the run wanting pictures taken with us was great. Seeing and hearing others talk about their collaborations with ACSM made me very proud. Just interacting with all the wonderful people was special. There was one moment, though, that I think will stay with me forever. The guy I handed the torch off to is a junior high teacher who lives about three hours from Calgary. His students were so excited about his run that two busloads of kids rode the three hours to watch him! The look on his face when he saw them arrive was indescribable. I think that summarized the entire feeling of all Canadians and what this run means to them. Wow – what an honor to have been allowed to participate in this event for ACSM!