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Bearing the torch: Roswell women join Olympic tradition

ROSWELL — Jerri Peterson, a Roswell woman who is in England today to carry the Olympic torch for a quarter-mile stretch, said as she was getting ready for the run that she wasn’t so much worried about her time in the global spotlight. Instead, her biggest fear is catching her hair on fire. “I have a tendency to look down and lean over when I’m running,” said Peterson, 54. “I’ve had to practice holding it out from me.”

In training, she used a baseball bat as a torch stand-in during runs through her Windsor Forest neighborhood. Although she said she isn’t a “serious” runner, Peterson said she will have no problem completing her assigned route through the English town of Derby. Thierry Laurent, her colleague at the Ravinia office of InterContinental Hotels Group Americas in Atlanta, will also have the privilege of carrying the torch. Laurent, also of Roswell, will carry the torch today through the town of Bloxwich. “After waiting so long for the day to arrive, to actually hold the torch and taking my first few steps” is what Laurent said is uppermost in his mind. “I’m secretly praying that I don’t trip and fall or cause the torch to flame out. I also look forward to all the memories I will have of that day, all the new friends and the location of where I was part of the run.”

Peterson and Laurent, who are both information-technology professionals, were nominated by their co-workers at InterContinental Hotels, which is providing all the Olympic lodging. As one of the primary sponsors of the Games, the corporation had torchbearer slots to bestow on worthy candidates within its ranks.

Among Peterson’s many community-minded activities that got her nominated are her chairmanships of both the Empty Stocking Fund campaign and Project Healthy Grandparents as well as participating in fundraisers for the likes of Susan G. Komen, March of Dimes, Habitat for Humanity and the American Heart Association. She and her husband, Rick, have been a host family for children of international colleagues through the American Youth Foundation, and she mentors elementary-age girls.

Laurent is a real-life example of dealing with physical adversity. “I have Parkinson’s Disease and am currently participating in a study group with Emory University and the Atlanta chapter of the American Parkinson’s Disease Association,” he said. “In addition, I have had discussions with fellow co-workers who have PD, or their family members, to help them understand how I cope with the disease. Mostly it has been co-workers who have family members who have PD, and they are trying to figure out how to best work with them and make sure they take medicines and exercise.”


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