The Body: The Complete HIV/AIDS Resource Follow Us Follow Us on Facebook Follow Us on Twitter Download Our App 
Professionals >> Visit The Body PROThe Body en Espanol

Tom's Excellent Olympic Adventure

One PHA. One Olympic Torch. One Experience of a Lifetime.

Spring/Summer 2010

Tom's Excellent Olympic Adventure
In April 2009, I embarked on the opportunity of a lifetime: I entered a contest to win a chance to participate in the Torch Relay for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. One of the contest requirements was to write a pledge about how I would make Canada an even better place to live. As a person living with HIV for 18 years, and someone who has been delivering support to people living with HIV/AIDS (PHAs) for the past decade, I knew instantaneously that my pledge would be to continue to address HIV stigma and discrimination, both in my local community -- Guelph, Ontario -- and across Canada.

After my diagnosis, the AIDS-phobia I faced kept me from reaching out for the support and care that I needed. I lost control of my life. Years later, after I got back on track, I realized that I wanted to share my experience so that other PHAs would not have to suffer alone as I did.

In my work at the AIDS Committee of Guelph & Wellington County, I strive to empower and instill hope in people living with HIV. My personal mantra, shared with coworkers and clients, is: "Imagine the possibilities." That mantra filled my mind as I completed the online application. It worked! I was selected to be Torchbearer 010; my leg of the relay would be 300 metres along the road heading out of Owen Sound, Ontario.

I had to prepare. In the months leading up to the relay, my coworkers, one of whom is an avid runner herself, thought it would be a great fundraiser to do regular training runs. I made a pledge to run 100 kilometres with the hope of raising $1,000 for our agency's contribution to the United Way. I didn't think I would be able to run even 300 metres, but we trained three times a week, during our lunch break, running five kilometres each time. As the summer progressed, I began to look forward to our training sessions, and despite the numerous running injuries that crept up, I met my goal.

Finally, the day arrived. December 29 was a typically cold winter morning: -20°C at 7 am. As I stepped off the shuttle bus, the people who came out to see the flame began to approach me wanting to have their photos taken. I encouraged them to hold the three pound torch as I answered their questions. As camera flashes popped in the early morning darkness, my face was lit with a perma-smile. The caravan of vehicles approached and I saw my fellow torchbearer preparing to pass the flame. As the Olympic volunteers moved me into position, I was circled by security. Our torches touched and mine burst to life. My moment had arrived; I took a deep breath, turned to the crowd and reflected for a moment on my pledge. Then I ran.

Tom Hammond is executive director of the AIDS Committee of Guelph & Wellington County.

Photograph: © 2009 The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

This article was provided by Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange. It is a part of the publication The Positive Side. Visit CATIE's Web site to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
See Also
Ask a Question About Exercise at The Body's "Ask the Experts" Forums
Ten Things You Can Do to Improve Your Physical Fitness
More Personal Accounts on Exercise and HIV/AIDS

No comments have been made.

Add Your Comment:
(Please note: Your name and comment will be public, and may even show up in
Internet search results. Be careful when providing personal information! Before
adding your comment, please read's Comment Policy.)

Your Name:

Your Location:

(ex: San Francisco, CA)

Your Comment:

Characters remaining: