GRAND FALLS-WINDSOR, NL – It’s not every day a regular person gets to be involved in the Olympics.
“To be chosen was a once-in-a-life time experience that I'll remember forever,” said Grand Falls-Windsor native Ian Gidge. “I get to keep the torch and torch relay uniform, but more importantly many memories, and I have made lots of connections and new friends around Canada.
“We all became really close over the few days in Korea.”
Gidge won a contest with Samsung Canada back in 2017, in which he and four others from across the country were chosen to make the trip to South Korea in advance of the Pyeongchang Winter Games.
On the morning of Jan. 29, he took up the flame from a taekwondo gold medalist, and ran 200m with it, just outside the city of Chuncheon.
“Two hundred metres is not very far at all,” he said on Feb. 5, the day he got back to St. John’s, where he works.
“It went by very fast.”
Gidge said he felt he had missed out on the opportunity to be a part of the Olympics when they were in Vancouver in 2010 and wasn’t going to wait until they came back to Canada to try his luck.
A big fan of the games, he said it was an honour and a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be part of them.
“Stepping off the bus (in Chuncheon) was a surreal experience,” he said, describing people wanting to take his picture and pose with him for selfies. “They probably thought I was a celebrity or something; they don’t know I’m just some local from Newfoundland.”
Gidge explained torch relay process leading up to the games is a production in and of itself. He and his fellow Canadians ran on the 90th day of 101, but only after receiving some training and words of advice. He was told how to hold the torch and how to properly transfer the flame from one runner to another, among other things.
“They told us to not just pass the torch to someone on the sidelines,” he said, laughing.
Gidge flew into Seoul, the capital of South Korea, and suffered a bit of culture shock in the city of 24 million people. Still, he said everyone he met on his trip was friendly and helpful. Joined by his brother and friend, he stayed several days after the torch relay to explore the country.
“I would love to go back and see more of Asia, as everyone was very nice to me and helpful and made me feel at home,” he said.
As for being involved in the Olympics, Gidge said it was something he would recommend to any fan of the games.
“You don't have to be an athlete or someone important to apply to be a torch bearer,” he said. “You just need a bit of luck on your side.”