The spark that became a flame 

50 torchbearers carry Paralympic flame across mountains, through Whistler Village


"It was just amazing."

That's how Chelsey Walker described her leg of the Paralympic Torch relay on Monday, where she ran for 300 metres through Whistler Village as hundreds of onlookers cheered her on.

Dressed in a steel blue Paralympic outfit and toque, the executive director of Whistler Adaptive Sports had tears in her eyes after the run. She said carrying the torch brought home the valuable legacy the Paralympics will leave in Whistler.

"I have been filled with emotion the last couple of days thinking about it and thinking about Matt (Hallat) lighting the cauldron," said Walker. "I just couldn't stop beaming the whole time."

Whistler Village was ignited with spirit on Day Six of the Paralympic Torch Relay's journey across Canada.

Hundreds of people packed into Village Square on the sunny but cold afternoon to watch Whistler's 50 torchbearers carry the flame in a heartfelt ceremony, as well as hear speeches from community members and performances by musicians.

The Paralympic celebrations kicked off Monday morning at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre.

Unlike the Olympic flame, which has its ancestral home in Greece, the Paralympic flame is not as steeped in tradition, allowing relay organizers to come up with innovative ways to move the flame from Ottawa to Vancouver. In Whistler, the Lil'wat Nation ignited the flame on Monday in a special ceremony.

From there, the flame travelled through the upper village and then up Blackcomb Mountain on Wizard Chair and Solar Coaster. Torchbearers carried the flame across the Peak 2 Peak Gondola and up to the Peak of Whistler Mountain. Whistler's Phil Chew skied down part of the mountain and the flame was carried the rest of the way down in a lantern on Whistler Gondola.

Just before 3 p.m. the flame arrived back in Whistler Village and an energetic procession of Lil'wat drummers and dancers wearing traditional regalia escorted the lantern to the main stage in Village Square.

"On behalf of my people, welcome," said Chief Leonard Andrew from the Lil'wat Nation, moments before the flame arrived. "This is part of our territory and we want you to enjoy yourselves at the Paralympics like you did at the Olympics."

John Weston, Whistler's Member of Parliament, also spoke to the upbeat crowd.

"This is the first time the Paralympics have come to Canada and it is all about community," he said. "You can see that here today."

Long-time community member Leslie Clarke was on stage holding a torch as the flame was transferred. Her lips formed an "o" when the orange blaze grew instantly in size.


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