A 19-year-old girl whose dream of pursuing a hockey career came to a halt after doctors discovered a tumour in her spinal cord has been named Vancouver 2010 Olympic community torchbearer for Charlottetown.
Emma MacEachern’s story of determination and passion has inspired many Canadians, from NHL hockey great Wayne Gretzky to Hockey Canada’s national women’s hockey team to the selection committee who hand-picked the second-year UPEI student to carry the torch in Charlottetown.
MacEachern says she’s honoured to be chosen to carry the Olympic torch.
“I’ll be nervous but really excited,” MacEachern said. “I don’t really know how it’s going to feel, I’ll have to wait and see.”
As a promising hockey player and well-rounded athlete, MacEachern dreamed of playing professional hockey.
But at age 16, doctors discovered a three-inch tumour in her spinal cord. She underwent surgery to remove the tumour, however, doctors said she may never walk again let alone play hockey.
It was MacEachern’s passion for hockey and determination to defy the odds that provided the inspiration she needed to get through nearly a year of grueling rehab in Toronto.
On Nov. 21, MacEachern will lead the Olympic torch on its tour along Victoria Row, down Great George Street to the Charlottetown waterfront where she will light the 1.3-metre celebration cauldron in front of an expected crowd of nearly 5,000 people. The celebration is a move similar to the dramatic highlight that will occur during opening ceremonies for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
More details about the Olympic torch relay across P.E.I. and Nov. 21 community celebrations will be released within weeks.
“We’re pleased to announce Emma as Charlottetown’s torchbearer for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games,” said the City of Charlottetown’s Wayne Long, during an announcement at City Hall on Friday.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Emma, who is one of 12,000 Canadians chosen to carry the Olympic flame on the longest domestic torch relay in Olympic history.”
Paul Crabbe of Crapaud agrees it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He carried the Olympic torch relay in Borden prior to the Winter Olympics in Calgary in 1988.
“You get goose bumps,” Crabbe said. “And I was just running along the highway. Emma will be running into a celebration with 4,000-5,000 people. It will be amazing. It will be something she will never forget.”
While unable to play competitive hockey, MacEachern is walking again. She feeds her passion for hockey by assisting both the UPEI and provincial women’s hockey teams and she’s looking at playing recreational hockey in the near future.
The daughter of Frank and Jennifer MacEachern and niece of Olympic gold medalist Dave (Eli) MacEachern, Emma MacEachern continues to give back to the community that provided support and encouragement to her, volunteering with the Children’s Wish Foundation and Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Her experience has also inspired her own life path as she is studying science and kinesiology in hopes of becoming a neuro-physiotherapist to help others recover and fulfil their dreams.
MacEachern said she’s healthy now, and her progress has proven even her doctors wrong.
“I hope this will help get my story out there and show people that you can do whatever you want to do.”
— The 106-day Olympic Torch Relay will visit more than 1,030 communities and places of interest in every province and territory;
— On Nov. 21 the Olympic flame will be in P.E.I. and a huge community celebration is planning for that night on the Charlottetown waterfront;
— On Feb. 12, 2010, the Olympic flame will make its way to downtown Vancouver to light the Olympic cauldron in a magical and awe-inspiring moment before a television audience of three billion people worldwide, signalling the kick ff to the start of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
— For more information on the relay, visit: www.vancouver2010.com/torchrelay.