Nerves precede Senator O'Connor student’s big moment

Olympic spirit burns bright in flame carrier

The Olympic spirit resided at Senator O’Connor Catholic Secondary School even before student Harmond DeJuan proudly carried the flame through Toronto on Dec. 17.

DeJuan, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, made the trek in his motorized wheelchair.

At a school event prior to the journey, DeJuan admitted he was excited, but a little intimidated.

“I’m kind of nervous to do it,” he said. “It’s something I’ve never done before.”

Staff at Senator O’Connor got a request from the games’ organizing committee for a student to do a 300-metre relay from York Memorial Collegiate.

DeJuan was chosen from 16 possible candidates.

“We were looking for someone who had demonstrated strength of spirit, determination — the Olympic spirit,” said O’Connor’s principal Susan Baker. “It’s really given an opportunity to acknowledge all those students.”

To keep the Olympic spirit burning brightly in its students the school invited former 2000 Sydney Summer Games hoopster Rowan Barrett was invited to the school Dec. 15 to give a motivational speech.

“This is great,” Barrett told the Town Crier before his talk. “For me, that’s where it started … when I was that young and getting an opportunity to participate in and feeling the spirit.

“As a grown-up it’s something that moves you and you realize that it is something that is very special, and is bigger than you.”

As for his Olympic aspirations, they were achieved by his trip Down Under.

“We beat the world champions. We did some historical things for basketball in this country,” he said. “But the things I remember happened way before.

“The qualifying: All the sacrifice and everything to get there and then the opening ceremonies.”

Sharing stories of Team Canada’s qualifying match against Puerto Rico, his return from a career-ending injury and his hard work in academics, Barrett encouraged the rapt audience of 200 students to act on their own aspirations.

“Don’t let anyone ever tell you that the sky is the limit when there are footprints on the moon,” he told students. “The sky’s not the limit. Dream, and dream big.”

Barrett’s visit and his words of encouragement left an impression, especially on Baker.

“I think it’s been very good for the school because they always say it’s your personal determination that gets you through,” she said. “It’s as much about sports as life too.”

The spirit is expected to live on in a planned memorial at the school, with photos of the events leading to the Vancouver games and DeJuan’s torch included.

About this article:

By: Brian Baker
Posted: Jan 14 2010 2:34 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto