Huntsville woman recalls her experience carrying Olympic torch in 1996

Huntsville woman recalls her experience carrying Olympic torch in 1996
(Source: Pam Renshaw)

(WAFF) - It's the big moment that kicks off every Olympic Games—the lighting of the cauldron during the opening ceremony.

Imagine the thrill of carrying the torch used to light it.

One Huntsville woman knows what that feels like and she carries the emotions from that moment in her heart every single day.

"I think in all of the pictures I'm smiling and waving at everybody. People that you didn't even know were clapping and cheering," said Pam Renshaw, recalling the experience.

The journey any Olympic torch takes for that crowning moment is long.

Rewind back to 1996—and the light that lit up the Atlanta sky for the Summer Games then—traveled right here through the Tennessee Valley.

"I hope you're feeling at this moment what I got to feel back then because it's something that not everyone gets to do," Renshaw said.

"To have been chosen to be one of those is quite an honor, and I really enjoyed it."

To truly understand Pam's run with the torch, we have to go back a couple of years.

"I started using the wheelchair in 1991."

"I have a neuromuscular disease that's progressive. I was diagnosed when I was like 11 years old," she explained.

The day Pam found out she would be forever wheelchair bound is a day she'll never forget.

"Just by chance, it was pouring down rain that day as I was driving back. And in all honesty, I laugh now and say, 'I'm not sure if there was more water in the car.' In other words, I took it very hard.

"As you can imagine, with the pity she felt for herself that day, there was no way she thought the Olympic Games would come calling on her.

But then the phone rang. She was nominated by a friend and, to her shock, she was chosen.

"Do they need a person in a wheelchair with a dog?" she asked with a laugh.

That's just the thing. It wasn't because she was in the wheelchair, or even that she'd been through so much.

It was about who Pam Renshaw was, what she could achieve, and who she would inspire.

"You know, thinking that you might inspire other people is kind of a tremendous burden, if you know what I mean."

"There's are still moments when I have my pity party, but I guess when I'm talking to folks I want them to know it's okay to have a momentary pity party, but get out of there and get going."

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