Dallas Morning News -- Sunday, November 25, 2001 -- Sports Day (Section B) -- Page 4B


Skier gives back some goodwill

     WAXAHACHIE -- While officials launched the Salt Lake torch relay in Ancient Olympia, Greece, the Games' first U.S.-based torch-passing occurred in Waxahachie on Monday afternoon.
     Thanks to 1998 Olympic freestyle skiing champion Nikki Stone, Ashley O'Rear became the first U.S. torchbearer to take a handoff of the stunning aluminum torch.
     Ashley, 14, has been selected to carry the torch during its trip through North Texas on Dec. 12. Her bravery and determination in beating brain cancer earned her a spot in the relay. Ashley's cancer has returned, but she enjoyed several hours with Stone, who won the aerials gold medal at the Nagano Olympics.
     The Salt Lake Organizing Committee, Children's Medical Center and the Clayton Dabney Foundation's Scott Dabney helped arranged Stone's visit. She brought her Olympic gold medal and videos of her championship performance.
     "Not everyone gets to keep a torch, or even gets to carry it," Stone told Ashley as they held the torch together in the O'Rear's family room. "I know so many people who got nominated for the torch relay but didn't get chosen. They all know what a champion you are."
     The torch is a replica of the one that will travel through 46 states en route to the Salt Lake Olympic Opening Ceremony. Those selected as torch-bearers are offered a chance to buy one for several hundred dollars apiece. But Ashley's was a gift from the organizers.

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