Artist 'icon' will carry Olympic torch along Queen Street

By Penny Coles, Niagara Advance

The torch seems almost as big as she is.

But that won't stop artist Trisha Romance from taking part in the Olympic Torch relay along Queen Street in Niagara-on-the-Lake on its way to Vancouver for the start of the 2010 games.

While the 300-metre run isn't expected to be a problem for the very fit 58-year-old, she is a little concerned about the size of the torch and the weather conditions when she jogs down Queen Street Dec. 20, day 52 of the relay.

At 5-foot 2-3/4 inches, "the torch is about two-thirds my height, and I'm very accident-prone," she says.

"Three hundred metres is not very far, and I should be fine, but there could be a snow storm that day. If it's icy I'll torch my hair for sure."

Romance has never been much of an athlete-while her sisters were into sports at school, she sought out the art room and developed her creative side. But you don't have to be a competitive athlete to be inspired by the Olympics or the athletes, she says.

Although she doesn't work out, she isn't one to sit still, and is on the move constantly-unless she's painting, which isn't as often as she'd like.

She has been dealing for more than a decade with epilepsy, which has slowed her down, and is now fighting the effects of arthritis in her hands-a painful condition that is robbing her fingers of flexibility and restricting her progress as she works to complete a painting for Christmas.

It's also making her a little nervous about holding on to the smooth, sleek contemporary design of the stainless steel and aluminum torch, which is supposed to represent the fluid lines of snow and ice in winter sports.

But those concerns are minor compared to the great honour Romance, an avid TV spectator when the Olympics are on, feels to have been chosen to be a torch-bearer.

While the torch represents the flame that ignites Olympic athletes, Romance says, she sees it as a flame that also is kindled in the hearts of those who love the Olympics, who support the event, and all those who work to make Canada and this world a better place.

"It's about the athletes, of course, but it's also about our country supporting this terrific event," she says.

"And it's about keeping the 'dream' alive, not just in sports, but whatever your personal dream."

Romance compares the struggles of an athlete to succeed to those facing any challenge in life-learning to reach for small milestones, believing in yourself, being dedicated to whatever talent or gift you've been given in life.

"There are so many people with such incredible gifts. Seeing those athletes on the podium receiving their medals teaches us to keep our dreams alive within ourselves."

Torchbearers were asked to consider making a pledge, she says. Some have pledged to carry out specific actions to make their communities and country a better place, such as picking up garbage or driving a hybrid vehicle, others are pledging to volunteer or coach a minor sports team.

"I pledge to carry a torch that lights the fire in others for artistic joy, spirituality, and compassion for a greener planet," says Romance, who is still overwhelmed at being asked to carry the torch.

"I think it's a wonderful surprise and an amazing honour to be recognized in this way."

RBC, the main sponsor of the 2010 Olympic Torchbearer program, oversees the journey through every province and territory in the country and involves 12,000 people, including notable Canadians who have been selected to be torchbearers.

Lorraine Chan, Community Marketing Manager for RBC, says that when they decided to challenge those who wanted to carry the torch for the relay to pledge something that would create a better Canada, they also resolved to select notable Canadians who are already doing great things in their community and serving as an inspiration to others. Trisha Romance, "a Canadian cultural icon," meets that requirement, she said.

The artist was chosen for "the impact she has had on Canadian culture and the art industry, and for putting Canada on the map in the art world," says Chan.

"We see her as a notable Canadian who has created a better Canada and we want to celebrate what she has accomplished and highlight her as an inspiration to others."

The Torch Relay will begin its journey to Vancouver on Oct. 30, when the flame arrives in Victoria following a traditional lighting ceremony in Greece. The Olympic Flame will then travel from coast to coast through every province and territory in Canada - spanning 45,000 kilometers and more than 1,000 communities over the course of 106 days.

It will end at BC Place on Feb. 12, with the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron, signaling the start of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

As a long-standing supporter of the Canadian Olympic Team since 1947, RBC is a national partner of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games and is bringing the Olympic Spirit to communities across Canada as a partner of the 2010 Olympic Torch Relay.

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