Coast Guard Seaman Carries Olympic Flame in San Francisco

ALAMEDA, Calif. — Mallory Elizabeth Schafer, a 23-year-old U.S. Coast Guard seaman stationed at Integrated Support Command Alameda on Coast Guard Island, sat in the grand ballroom of the San Francisco Hilton listening attentively to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom as he addressed the men and women selected to bear the Olympic Torch during the relay in San Francisco Wednesday.

At the conference the bearers were paired up, with the exception of special needs bearers who were accompanied by escorts. They were informed of the route they were to run and given a schedule of events, including the opening and closing ceremonies. After the conference, Schafer said she and the other torch bearers were loaded onto buses that would transport them to the relay points.

Schafer, who is assigned to the industrial carpentry shop in the engineering division at ISC, said she first heard of the essay contest to select torch bearers on a news broadcast and applied online, submitting a short essay, but did not think she would actually be selected for the honor.

“I never get picked for anything,” she said.

She was informed via e-mail by A Sustainable Journey, the San Francisco Olympic relay committee, that she would be a torch bearer pending approval from the Beijing Olympic Committee, she said.

Schafer said she had mixed emotions about her selection.

“I was a little nervous about being in the limelight,” she said, “but more than anything I was really excited.”

She wasn’t the only one. Her parents, Mary Scullion and Dave Tucker, both Virginia residents, were also elated to hear about her selection.

“My dad was so excited he told everybody at work and he asked where I was going to be running and how he could see it.”

Schafer said she didn’t really change her fitness regimen in preparation for the run.

“I try to run two miles a day, three days a week, and I knew it wasn’t going to be a marathon run so I didn’t change up my routine.”

Schafer said that she and the other bearers were informed of the last-minute route change soon after.

“I was a little nervous when they changed the route, but then I realized that it was nothing to worry about,” she said of the mayor’s decision to change the route of the relay. She said she knew there would be protestors, but never felt unsafe during the event.

Carrying the torch was a surreal experience, she said.

“It was like time stood still. Usually exciting events pass really fast, but this moved really slowly. I felt like I had a chance to soak it in and really enjoy the experience,” Schafer said.

She said she was also affected by her fellow torch bearers, many of whom had to overcome difficult personal challenges. One runner was born with a crippling disease and he had to fight to overcome it and is now a high school track runner, she said.

“There were so many people with amazing stories. The challenges that people had to overcome really made me feel honored and humbled to be with them,” she said.

Schafer said she was proud to be able to represent her country and take part in the traditional event.

“It’s all still so surreal. All the attention is a little weird, (but) it was an awesome opportunity to take part in and I know I will never forget it.”

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