Thousands gathered, even before the sun rose, to catch a glimpse of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger carrying the Olympic torch through Stanley Park on Friday, Feb. 12.
But one Langley Special Olympian got to go right along with the Hollywood celebrity who has now become California’s most powerful politician, every step of the way.
Special Olympic track and field star Matthew Williams not only got to take in the Torch Relay with the Governator, he got to hang out with Schwarzenegger, his wife Maria Shiver and their son and talk about Special Olympics.
Shriver is the daughter of Special Olympic founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver.
Schwarzenegger’s office contacted the B.C. Special Olympics and asked for an athlete to join him at the relay.
“I enjoyed every minute of it,” said Williams, who is graduating this year from Walnut Grove Secondary. “[Arnold] was a great guy. He was very happy. It was a really good experience to get up close and personal with someone so well-known.”
Williams, his dad Bill and his sister got to meet and spend some time with the Schwarzenegger family at their hotel before the relay. They all got into a motorcade to go to the the Olympic relay where they were met with massive crowds.
“This was good to get the word out about the Special Olympics which has changed my life,” said Williams.
“This showed that we are able to do sports and people should look past our struggles and look at all our abilities.”
Williams medalled in the B.C. Special Games last year and will go on to compete in Nationals in London, Ont. this summer for track and field. This year, Williams spoke to crowds of 1,000 people in Ontario and hundreds in Vancouver about how Special Olympics has changed his life for the better and what it all means to him.
Williams was also a longtime newspaper carrier for The Times. He is now working at Montana’s.
He is excitedly watching the Olympic athletes, remarking that Canadian gold medallist Alexandre Bilodeau is “an inspiration.”