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Wabash County resident chosen to carry
Olympic torch

By Cindy Street

from the Wabash Plain Dealer, Dec. 29, 2001

Sue Ridenour

To be selected one of the few Americans who will be torchbearers for the 2002 Winter Olympics is a true honor. This is the sentiment expressed by rural Wabash resident Sue Ridenour. Sue knows firsthand how it feels. On Jan. 3 she will be one of the selected few carrying the Olympic torch and passing the flame as it makes its journey toward Salt Lake City for the Feb. 8 opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics.

To become eligible for the honor, Sue was nominated in an essay be her friend, Suzanne Peebles. "I wasn't aware she had done it until after she had sent it," Sue smiles. "After I found out, I don't think either one of us really thought anything would become of it." she adds, "so I really didn't tell anyone, other than my own children," Sue laughs. "I was just thrilled to think that someone would take that time to nominate me."

A runner for "about four years," Sue was inspired to begin training after she watched her son achieve a lofty goal. "He had a tremendous weight problem and he lost 125 pounds," she states. "After I watched him finish his first half-marathon I came home from Indianapolis and ran the distance of one light pole. The next day I ran two light poles and increased the distance every day. It wasn't very long before that first mile came.

When notification of her selection to become a torchbearer arrived, Sue nearly threw it away, believing at first it was a sweepstakes entry. "When I first opened it, it said something about 'You have won,' or something like that. I thought it was a contest and I almost threw it aside, but then I saw the Olympic torch emblem in the corner and realized what it was. It was unbelievable," she says.

"We were leaving on vacation within 36 hours and I had to have all the paperwork notarized and turned in before I left. One of the rules for carrying the torch in the circumstances I was nominated through the Chevrolet program, was that you cannot be a member of an elected official's household, and you can't be a member of a candidate's household, and you can't be either of those things. My husband was the Noble Township Trustee at the time," she relates. Sue's husband David, knew what had to be done. "Very quickly, that day," Sue says, "he typed a letter of resignation and turned it in."

Through the loving support of her family and friends, Sue would be a participant in the torch-bearing tradition. "To me, it's not real yet. It's the closest thing to actually being an Olympic participant that can happen to you," she says.

"This year, I think of all years, with what has happened, there's a tremendous amount of patriotism, not only within our country, but with mankind in general. We realize how small our world is." Sue expressed her gratitude at being given the opportunity to participate in he event, "It's such a tremendous honor," she says.

Sue's 2/10 mile run will begin Jan. 3, 6:06 p.m., in Fort Wayne, at 1717 Calhoun Street and end at the intersection of Calhoun and Brackenridge streets. "We were told we could walk, jog, or run. I don't think I'll be running as fast as I can. I want to make it last as long as possible," she laughs. A total of 85 runners will carry the flame the 15.7 miles in Fort Wayne area, and, according to Sue, each runner will carry their own torch which will be lit from the torch of the previous runner. Only the flame is passed, leaving runners with the souvenir of a lifetime. "I ordered my torch and told my husband I had done his Christmas shopping for him," she smiles.

Wearing the official Olympic torchbearers uniform, Sue will be dressed in matching windpants and jacket, longsleeve T-shirt, a fleece cap and gloves. "I don't think I'll even notice the cold. I'll be so excited," she laughs.

She says she will be dedicating her run to "everyone who volunteers to work with and encourage youth." "When I go to Morett Field and I see all the volunteers who coach soccer, touch football, and Little League, I see people who want to make a difference. 'The theme on the torch says, "To Light the Fire Within.' I have a desire within myself to help make a better community. That's what this is all about," she notes. Sue works with children herself, offering swimming lessons in her private pool at her home, and opening her pool to families with children who wish to learn to swim.

Following her run, Sue says she would be happy to share the experience with anyone who is interested. She may be contacted at 563-6444.