Carol Johnson power-walked to the five Alaska International Senior Games participants, most of whom were in their 90s, to hand them a nonflaming torch during the opening ceremony of the 17th edition of the games.

The five participants, on a sunny and windy Friday night, were seated in chairs next to the cauldron for the opening ceremony in front of the Alaska Centennial Center for the Arts at Pioneer Park.

The torch handoff was special to Johnson, as it reminded her of her mother, Dorothy, of Agawan, Massachusetts.

“I have a mother who’s 97, and I think of her. She’s in Massachusetts and she can’t be here,” Johnson said. “It’s very special for me because I get to pass it (torch) off to someone else who’s in their 90s.”

Johnson handed the torch to JoAnn Smith, an 89-year-old Fairbanks resident who turns 90 on Dec. 31.

It was the beginning of a unique torch relay.

Smith passed the torch to 93-year-old Wilma Goldmann, of Anchorage. Goldmann presented to fellow Anchorage resident and 94-year-old David Thurber. Fairbanksan Rosie Evans, who’s also 94, received the torch from Thurber and gave it 96-year-old Alyce Hansell, of San Francisco.

Hansell handed the torch to Diann Darnall, AISG president, who gave the torch to board member Andrea Gelvin to “light” the cauldron.

Darnall said 336 people ages 50 and older are participating in the AISG, which runs through Aug. 18. The participants include senior athletes from Ukraine, Canada, Florida and California, just to name a few non-Alaska places represented.

The AISG features 21 events and among them are triathlon, racquetball, basketball, bocce, hockey, cycling, indoor shooting, bowling and archery.

The complete list of events and schedules are available at www.alaskaisg.org.

Hansell first came to the AISG 12 years ago with her husband, Ken. He passed away two years ago.

“She and my dad came to visit, and she signed him up,” Bobbi Ritchie, Hansell’s daughter and a Fairbanks resident, said of her mom’s first participation in the Alaska International Senior Games.

“I wasn’t sure what was happening,” Hansell joked.

This year’s AISG also is a generational experience for Hansell, who’s daughters, Ritchie, and Kathy Uhl, of San Francisco, also are participants.

Hansell, who turns 97 on Dec. 30, is participating in track and field — particularly the 50 and 100-meter sprints, discus, shot put and javelin — in this year’s AISG.

“It’s awesome,” Ritchie said of her mom being active in her late 90s.

Barry Crombie, an 82-year-old resident of Township, British Columbia, returned to the AISG after participating for the first time last year.

“I’m getting older and I thought that I’m still fit,” Crombie said after the opening ceremony. “I thought I’d come back again and I really enjoyed the first time, and I talked Charlotte into coming from Alberta.”

Charlotte is 74-year-old Charlotte Hamel, an AISG newcomer from Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta.

“It’s great. It’s just nice to meet all the people and do our thing,” Hamel said.

The pair is entered in similar events, including bocce, bowling, disc golf and the 50 and 100-meter sprints in track and field.

Jim Williams, chief of staff for Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Bryce Ward, commended the AISG participants during his speech before the torch-lighting ceremony.

“Thank you for setting the right example to young people in our community that we can still be active in our senior years and still have very, very fruitful, active lives,” Williams said. “Thank you for setting that example, and these games represent that.”

Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports.

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