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Sturgeon torchbearer ready to run

Walter Hoffmann isn’t taking any chances this week when his turn to carry the Olympic torch comes up.

Walter Hoffmann isn’t taking any chances this week when his turn to carry the Olympic torch comes up.

The 74-year-old Sturgeon County resident is carrying the torch Friday morning through the streets of Spruce Grove and to make sure he doesn’t miss his chance, he is staying overnight.

Hoffmann has to report for duty by 6 a.m. and to be sure wintery weather didn’t stymie his plans, he booked a hotel room months ago.

“I am probably going to be there shortly after 5 a.m. just to make sure,” he said. “They made it quite clear you have to be there by 6 a.m. or you don’t run.”

The chance to carry the torch has been on Hoffmann’s mind for a long time, after first applying in 2008. He said it is now coming to a fevered pitch.

“It is very, very, very exciting. It really has built up in the last week or so. I never thought it would come to that, but it is really building up, with people calling and asking how they can get out to the event,” he said. “I had no idea that it would become this exciting for me as well as for our friends and relatives.”

Grandfather to five kids, Hoffmann will have one of them on the sidelines as he makes his way down Highway 16A through Spruce Grove. His 18-year-old granddaughter is coming in from Kelowna and his son will be flying in all the way from Houston.

His wife Linda will also be standing on the sidelines and while it is still a few months away, she will be holding up a sign reading, “2010, 50th wedding anniversary” to mark the couple’s milestone this year.

The nationwide contest sponsored by Coca-Cola and RBC asked Canadians to pledge what they would do to make the world a better place for their spot as torchbearers. Hoffmann has pledged to teach children soccer this summer through his church.

“I didn’t want to tie myself down and lock myself out of a chance by saying it must be St. Albert,” he said. “I am very, very happy. I think I would have gone 500 miles north or south or east if that is what it had come to.”

He said it is a great chance to be a part of the Olympic spirit.

“It is really an honour to do this and support our country and our athletes.”

Hoffmann could give some of those athletes a run for their money as well and should handle the 300-meter run easily.

“I’m actually am quite an exercise nut. I go out three kilometres everyday in the summer jogging and in the winter cross-country skiing.”

Hoffmann’s run has a tentative time of 7:36 a.m. The torch run through Spruce Grove starts at 7:27 on Highway 16A near the intersection with Campsite Road.

Hoffmann will do his stretch starting near Grove Pontiac and ending near First Avenue.