Today, Arlington man gets to feel like an Olympian

ARLINGTON — Tim Donegan imagines he’ll feel proud when he watches the Olympic flame being carried into the opening ceremonies of the 2010 winter games in Vancouver on Friday. After all, he will have helped get it there.

Late this morning, Donegan, of Arlington, plans to run the Winter Olympics torch about a quarter mile along a city street in Burnaby, B.C.

Possibly the only other Washingtonian to carry the flame this year is skier Phil Mahre, who had a torch in hand Tuesday during a ceremony at the Peace Arch border crossing in Blaine.

Mahre, 52, won medals at the 1980 and 1984 winter Olympic games.

Donegan, 57, likes to play golf. His wife says he’s not much of a runner, even though he’s been practicing on the treadmill.

Nonetheless, Donegan is proud to be part of the events leading up to the winter games.

“You can just feel the excitement in B.C.,” Donegan said. “A torch runner came by my office in Surrey the other day, attracting big crowds. It’s pretty neat.”

Donegan’s heroic 11/2-hour daily commute from Arlington across the border isn’t the reason he gets to run the torch.

A division vice president for 7-Eleven, Donegan is in charge of all the 7-Eleven stores in Canada. Officials at Coca Cola, a big sponsor of the games, asked Donegan to take one of Coke’s turns on the relay run.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “Some of my friends don’t believe it, but my kids are really excited.”

Donegan frequently travels across Canada and believes the Olympic torch relay has had a unifying effect on the country.

“I will only have it in my hand for a few minutes, but I plan to take it slow so people can snap their photos,” he said.

Donegan grew up the son of a wheat farmer in Eastern Washington. He and his wife Kelly have eight children, ages 13 to 28, and have lived in Arlington about 10 years. They plan to watch his run in Burnaby today and his wife will be with him at the opening ceremonies Friday.

“This really is an honor and it’s pretty humbling,” Donegan said.

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