Elena Baltacha & The Olympic Torch Relay
Published July 20, 2012 12:00
ST. PETERS, England - There can be few prouder moments in the life of any athlete than carrying the Olympic Torch, so Elena Baltacha can be forgiven for getting a little emotional when she was given that honor on Thursday.
"A few people who went before me were a bit teary and I thought, 'I'll be fine,' but as soon as my Torch was lit I was crying my eyes out," she said. "It was a wonderful feeling and it's fantastic so many people turned out to see us all."
The Torch is being carried around the streets of the UK in a relay, with hundreds of celebrities, sportspeople and ordinary citizens carrying the flame before lighting the Torch of the next bearer. The Relay began last month and will climax when the flame enters the Main Olympic Stadium next Friday, the night of the opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Later this week, the Torch will be taken past Wimbledon, which is playing host to the Olympic Tennis Event. A host of WTA stars are set to compete there for a place in Olympic history, including Baltacha and her fellow Brits Anne Keothavong, Heather Watson and Laura Robson. Baltacha was given an International Tennis Federation place in the singles, while she and Keothavong moved directly into the main draw of the doubles competition as well.
"I can't wait to compete for Team GB at the Games," said Baltacha, who only found out she had been granted a place in the Olympic singles after her first round match at Wimbledon. "It means the world to me to be able to become and Olympian and it really is a dream come true. My dad Sergei won a bronze medal in the 1980 Moscow Olympics for soccer, playing for the Soviet Union, while my mum missed out on a place as a pentathlete because she had to stay home and look after my brother. I feel like the Olympics is in my blood."
Baltacha is the only female tennis player to be asked to carry the flame so far.
"It goes so quickly but the whole experience was amazing," she said. "Before it's your turn, you travel in the bus with the other Torchbearers and I really got to know those people and had fun chatting to them. They had all done amazing things for the community and for charity and I loved listening to their stories. It was also fantastic to see how enthusiastic everyone was along the route.
"It made me feel very proud and very, very excited about the Games."