Living with diabetes can be a lot to deal with every day, and some of us have joked that navigating our daily D-routines can sometimes feel like an Olympic sport in itself! The Diabetes Olympics, one might say.
Of course, most of us don't really have any insight into both living with diabetes and being a part of the actual Olympics. But some fellow PWDs can claim that, and not just the elite athletes striving for medals and record-breaking wins at the world championship level...
This year, at least two dozen fellow D-Community members are carrying the symbolic Olympic Torch as it makes its way to London for the start of the 2012 Summer Olympics, between July 27 and August 12!
As you may know, the Olympic Torch Relay is a ritual tradition in which the "sacred flame" marking the Olympic Games is carried by foot to the host country, transferred from one torchbearer to another. This year's relay was a 70-day journey to the UK, where 8,000 individuals are transporting the torch through 1,018 villages, cities and towns toward London after its arrival from Greece on May 18. A search of the Torchbearer online profiles shows that 20 teens and adult PWDs are carrying the torch at some point, as well as four others with a personal or professional connection to diabetes.
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Odds are there are more. The online database isn't searchable by keywords such as "diabetes" but can be only be examined by name, location and date. Plus, who knows how many PWDs might just not have listed the fact that they have diabetes? So, without spending weeks of dedicated time on this, we are relying on Google searches, the London 2012 Organizing Committee's Press Office, and organizations like the JDRF UK to help us break down the numbers down and pinpoint the D-peeps.
A specific request from the 'Mine unfortunately went unanswered this week by the Olympic Press Office in London — not surprising, given we're in mid-July just before the Olympics begin.
Phil Buckley, head of media for JDRF UK, says the organization has been directly involved with publicity for 13 torchbearers and they've helped develop press coverage on that. He says the feedback so far is that those who've participated have found the experience "absolutely phenomenal."
Since there's no centralized list of who all these torchbearers are, we've compiled a list here; as mentioned, it's by no means comprehensive.
But seriously: if you want to be inspired by the amazing things people are doing while living with diabetes, I highly encourage you to scan through some of these profiles! I did, and am very moved, and proud of each and every person. And for a country that has an estimated 2.5 million diagnosed PWDs with many not receiving adequate care , these individuals' stories are all the more inspiring!
The PWDs who've already carried the torch in May, June and early July include:
- Amy James, 24, diagnosed in 2000
- Toby Goodyear, 13, dx'd at age 10
- Melanie Stephenson, 24, dx'd at 13
- Hannah Jarrett, 15, dx'd in February 2009
- Chloe Gillum, 18, dx'd at age nine
- Calum "Chancy" Macleod, 48, a type 1 who also has a 4-year old daughter dx'd in 2009.
- Blair Mcclymont, 18, diagnosed at five
- Cairon Berry, 38, dx'd more than 17 years ago
- Paul Hagreen, 18, dx'd at age four
- Emma Register, 14, dx'd at 12 months
- Tom Brennan, 23, who lives with Downs syndrome and type 1
- Christian Dowen, 14, dx'd at four
- Fraser Hart, 13, diagnosed at three
There's also 43-year old D-Dad Trevor Griffiths, whose son Jack was diagnosed at age three; 40-year old Keith Bray, who's participated in JDRF UK events to raise money for diabetes for his friend Chancy Macleod who has type 1; and Dr. Badr Alshibani from Saudi Arabia, who focuses his practice and advocacy on patients living with diabetes.
Just this week, four more with a diabetes connection have carried the torch:
- Andy Macklin, 56, who was diagnosed a half-century ago at age six
- Ryan Hodd Jarvis, 15, whose parents are both living with diabetes
- Amy Wilton, 17, dx'd at age five and a fellow D-Blogger in the UK (!)
- Steve Mcmenami, 45, who was diagnosed "some years ago"
Today, two other PWDs are handling the torch:
- William Chanter, 15, dx'd at age six
- Gavin Griffiths, a 20-year old who was diagnosed at age eight and is now another DOC'er on Twitter as @Diathlete and writes his own D-blog called Diathlete
Another PWD-torchbearer initially listed was Cara Dartnell-Steinberg, a 13-year old diagnosed at six. She was originally scheduled to carry the torch through Westminster on July 26, just a day before the torch arrives in London and the Opening Ceremonies begin. But as of July 25, her name was sadly no longer listed as a torchbearer on the London Olympics site. :(
Just because the Torch Relay comes to a close doesn't mean the D-Community's representation is finished... there's a good chance one of the most visible roles — the person lighting the flame at the Opening Ceremonies — could be a fellow type 1!
Sir Steve Redgrave, who actually is a star Olympic athlete himself and carried the torch on July 10, is in the running to light the cauldron in London. Nominated by the British Olympic Association, Steve is hailed as Britain's greatest Olympian because of his unprecedented five consecutive gold medals in rowing. This year, he was one of 111 individuals to carry the torch on Day 53 (July 10), holding it up while in a boat (he's a rower, after all!) for a little more than a half-hour through the town of Henley-on-Thames in the South Oxfordshire area of England.
Apparently, Steve's up against against retired rower and former teammate Daley Thompson for the cauldron lighting honor, pitting him against someone dubbed by many to be "the greatest decathlete of all time."
Sounds pretty intense, in that Olympic sports politics sort of way...
Well, whether Sir Steve gets the chance won't be known until the Opening Ceremonies, as they keep that stuff close to the chest until the final moments. But we can hope! If nothing else, he's a contender and has already carried the torch!
And that's something anyone can be proud of, says Gary Hall, Jr., a fellow type 1 PWD who's a three-time Olympic swimmer with 10 medals to his name. He was recently inducted into the U.S. Olympics Hall of Fame, and took some time earlier this week to chat with the 'Mine about his thoughts on what this D-Community representation means to him.
"To carry the torch is a connection to the Olympic movement and tradition, and those who have that opportunity partake in the tradition and are a part of everything it symbolizes," he said. "(Carrying the torch) is the strongest bond between the public and the Olympic movement. They represent the diversity of humanity, and it's really neat to see the diabetes community represented."
While Gary has never carried the torch himself, his dad (Olympic swimmer Gary Hall, Sr.) had the shared experience of being both an Olympic athlete and a torchbearer. The younger Gary, who retired as an Olympic swimmer in 2008 and now only swim for recreation, says he'd be honored to carry the torch if that opportunity ever came his way. He's now following the Olympic trials, supporting the Olympic movement, and supporting diabetes advocacy — taking on public roles such as being a national JDRF advocate and leader. In that personal role, he's heading to London to not only watch the games, but be a part of the D-Community's representation at the Olympics.
"There are several individuals with diabetes representing our community on the Olympic stage either as athletes or as torchbearers. That's important stuff, and I think it brings us one step closer to seeing how the Olympics represent all of us," Gary told me during our phone interview.
He's also hoping to meet Sir Steve Redgrave, who he describes as one of Great Britain's most accomplished athletes.
"I know firsthand what it takes to succeed at the Olympic level while living with diabetes, so just having him as a candidate is an incredible accomplishment," Gary said. "As a member of Team Diabetes, I'm cheering for him! He's got my vote, as worthless as it may be in the selection process," he chuckles.
Looks like those of us in the D-Community have some exciting things to watch for in the next week or so, where fellow PWDs are playing their part in the Olympic Games. Not only carrying the Olympic flame, but helping to shine a light on all the great things that we CAN do despite diabetes!
In short, we'd like to say: Go, Team Diabetes!!!