Legally blind Warwick resident carries Olympic Torch in Manhattan

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:13

    NEW YORK CITY - It would have been the experience of a lifetime for any Warwick resident. But for Ken Stewart, legally blind since birth, it was more. "I couldn't see but I could feel the heat of the flame," he said. "It was awesome." Stewart also felt the warmth of his friends from Warwick and elsewhere who came to Manhattan on Saturday, June 19. They were there to join the cheering crowds and share with him the wonderful experience of having been selected to carry the Olympic Torch. "They made it all the more special," he said. The Olympic flame was lit during a traditional ceremony in Greece on March 25, the anniversary of the date that the modern Olympic games were revived in 1896. As part of its around the world journey, four American cities; Los Angeles, California, St. Louis, Missouri, Atlanta, Georgia, and New York City, were selected to participate in the relay which would span 34 cities and 27 countries before the start of this year's Olympic Games in Athens on August 13. New York City celebrated the arrival of the Olympic Torch with a 34-mile relay through the streets of the City, followed by a public celebration honoring the Olympic Spirit and the Athens 2004 Games. The night before the event, the torchbearers were invited to a reception at Gracie Mansion, the official residence of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "It was exciting," said Stewart. "I met the mayor and many heroic and famous people who had also been selected to participate." Stewart began to overcome his disability when he was in the 6th grade and discovered his talent for running. As an adult, he continues to take a positive approach to his visual impairment by not only running almost every day but by participating in other sports including hiking, skiing and whitewater rafting. He's competed successfully in many local races, usually holding a tether with his guide, fellow marathon runner and longtime friend Eric Nilsestuen. During the New York City event, Stewart carried the Olympic Torch on one of the scheduled legs along 6th Avenue from 27th to 31st streets. A young lady, who identified herself as a school track star named Leila, escorted him. Several of Stewart's friends were also on hand to photograph his portion of the relay. "We almost missed the whole event," said Warwick resident Barbara Ewert. "My photo was taken in a split second. They were early and we had just come out of a restaurant. We were hooping and hollering. He looked our way just as I snapped."