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Olympic torchbearers have local ties
by Joan Durbin
June 27, 2012 02:06 PM | 2333 views | 2 2 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Staff / Erin Gray
Roswell resident Jerri Peterson practices with her dog Lucy in Leita Thompson Memorial Park for her upcoming Olympic Torch run in England.
Staff / Erin Gray Roswell resident Jerri Peterson practices with her dog Lucy in Leita Thompson Memorial Park for her upcoming Olympic Torch run in England.
It isn’t being in the global spotlight that worries Jerri Peterson when she is entrusted with carrying the 2012 Olympic torch for a quarter mile of its journey on June 30.

Her biggest fear is catching her hair on fire.

“I have a tendency to look down and lean over when I’m running,” the 54-year-old Roswell resident said. “I’ve had to practice holding it out from me.”

A baseball bat has served as a torch stand-in as she runs through her Windsor Forest neighborhood. Although she said she isn’t a “serious” runner, Peterson said she will have no problem completing her assigned route through the English town of Derby.

Her colleague at the Ravinia office of InterContinental Hotels Group Americas in Atlanta, Thierry Laurent, also will have the privilege of carrying the torch. The Roswell resident’s segment of the run is in Bloxwich on June 30.

“After waiting so long for the day to arrive, to actually hold the torch and taking my first few steps” is what Laurent said is uppermost in his mind these days. “I’m secretly praying that I don’t trip and fall or cause the torch to flame out. I also look forward to all the memories I will have of that day, all the new friends and the location of where I was part of the run.”

Peterson and Laurent, who are both IT professionals, were nominated by their co-workers at InterContinental Hotels, which is providing all the Olympic lodging. As one of the primary sponsors of the Games, the corporation had torchbearer slots to bestow on worthy candidates within its ranks. Among Peterson’s many community-minded activities that got her nominated are her chairmanships of both the Empty Stocking Fund campaign and Project Healthy Grandparents as well as active participation in fundraisers for the likes of Susan G. Komen, March of Dimes, Habitat for Humanity and the American Heart Association.

She and her husband Rick have been a host family for children of international colleagues for the American Youth Foundation and she is a mentor for elementary age girls.

Laurent is a real-life example of dealing with physical adversity.

“I have Parkinson’s Disease and am currently participating in a study group with Emory University and the Atlanta chapter of the American Parkinson’s Disease Association,” he said.

“In addition, I have had discussions with fellow co-workers who have PD, or their family members, to help them understand how I cope with the disease. Mostly it has been co-workers who have family members who have PD, and they are trying to figure out how to best work with them and make sure they take medicines and exercise.”

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