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Torchbearers get 'rock star treatment'

It was easy to tell which people were among the lucky ones chosen to run with the Olympic torch: not only were they still dressed from head to toe in their official Olympic track suit while carrying their extinguished torches, but they were also the ones being swarmed by curious onlookers.

“I have never experienced that before, everyone coming up to you,” said Langley’s Miro Bezjak.

The 21-year-old ran Monday morning in Walnut Grove.

He was referring to the ‘rock star’ treatment the torchbearers were receiving, as they were swarmed in the Langley Events Centre parking lot by curious onlookers who bombarded them with questions, got their pictures taken with them and carried the extinguished torches.

“It was over really quick but it was really exhilarating,” Bezjak described.

“I didn’t feel any tiredness or anything (and) it was over real quick.

“It was just an honour to run.”

The actual run was beyond what Bezjak had expected.

“When I saw the torch coming to me, I was just blown away,” he said.

“(And) when I actually took the torch, it was such an honour. It was beautiful.”

Jesse Kaufman, a 15-year-old from Abbotsford, was not expecting such a big crowd for his portion of the run.

Running in Walnut Grove along 96 Avenue, he figured there would be some people there to cheer him on.

“It was so much more than I expected,” he said afterwards.

“I thought that not many people would show up, but wow, were the streets packed.”

As he ran amidst the cheers and screams, Kaufman said it was like time had stopped.

Those feelings were echoed by Chilliwack’s Valeree Braaten, who had about 35 members of her family and friends cheering her on.

“Unbelievable,” she said. “There is nothing that can prepare you for it.

“It was so exciting.”

Braaten said she would have loved to prolong her run, but she knew the relay course had a schedule to keep.

And as for the treatment she was receiving afterwards, that was an added surprise.

“I didn’t expect that at all, it was like being a rock star,” she said.

And while some runners had already completed their duties, others were just preparing for their big moment.

Jesse and Taylor Briggs, a couple of teenage brothers from Cloverdale, had a photo of their younger sister, Cassidy, hanging from their necks.

Cassidy passed away at age nine just last month after a two-year battle with a rare liver disease.

“We are doing this in honour of our sister,” said 17-year-old Jesse.

“Hopefully she is looking down on us.

“It is really special to run for her,” added Taylor, 14.

And all the preparation in the world was still not enough for some.

“I knew about this last May ... and now it is a nervous energy,” said retired Langley City fire chief Jim McGregor.

“Now it is overwhelming all of a sudden.”

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