Torch Cheered on Way Across Wisconsin
MILWAUKEE (AP) _ Dan Jansen was among the Olympic medalists from Wisconsin who served as honorary torch-bearers Sunday as the Olympic flame made its way across the state in sunshine and rainstorms.
Jansen, a gold medal-winning speedskater in 1994, was part of the relay through Milwaukee as the torch made its way on the 37th day of the 84-day, 15,000-mile relay.
The 18-car train carrying the torch started out in sunshine in La Crosse, but crowds viewing it later in the trip had to endure rainstorms that broke out in the evening.
``We are all getting Olympic fever again,″ said Ben Peterson, a Comstock native who won a gold medal in the 1972 Olympics and a silver medal in the 1976 Games in wrestling.
Peterson, wearing his uniform from the 1980 Olympics when the U.S. boycotted the games, spoke as the train carrying the torch made a 14-minute stop in Watertown.
About 3,200 people cheered its arrival and heard Mayor Frederick Smith read his proclamation of torch relay day in Watertown.
``The last time people gathered here was when President Taft stopped in the same place,″ said Randy Roessler of the Watertown Historical Society.
Then the train headed east for Milwaukee, where storms cleared off before the torch reached there about 8:30 p.m.
All along its route, the torch caused thrills, especially for those who took their turns carrying the flame.
``This is the biggest damn thing that ever happened to me,″ said Russ Miller, 76, of La Crosse, as he waited at that city’s train station for his turn to carry the torch. ``It’s God-given.″
The flame reached La Crosse, on the banks of the Mississippi River, at about 2 p.m. after a trip from St. Paul, Minn.
``We came to watch the fire,″ said 4-year-old Andy Terbeest, who was in La Crosse with his parents and sister.
The torch proceeded to the Veterans Memorial Stadium in La Crosse for a short ceremony before heading back to the train station.
Dan Immerfall, a former bronze-winning Olympic speedskater, also carried the torch.
``It’s a way for me to carry on the Olympic spirit,″ Immerfall said.
Each runner gets to keep the torch he or she carries, said Immerfall, who won a medal in the 1976 Olympics and also competed in the 1980 and 1984 Olympics.
``I’ll find a prominent place to display it,″ he said.
Others were just thrilled to witness the event.
``We have a schedule posted on the dashboard of our truck,″ said Dorothy Steele of Kingman, Ariz. Steele and her husband are truckers and they had been hoping their job would take them to a city where the torch was appearing.
That wish came true.
``We made a delivery to La Crosse on Sunday morning,″ she said.