The 2010 Olympic torch left Winnipeg on Thursday, overnighting in Portage la Prairie and destined for enthusiastic welcomes in several other Manitoba cities today.
Facing early morning temperatures of -21 C, and a wind chill of -38, Aimee Carvey began the day's trek at 8 a.m. from Minto Armouries.
Waiting to meet her 300 metres west on St. Matthews Avenue was 1988 Calgary Olympics ski jumper Eddie (the Eagle) Edwards, who would take the flame from her.
Edwards had no second thoughts about the bitter cold. "Oh no," he said, holding the torch. "I am not even feeling the cold at this moment."
Edwards was Great Britain's first and only ski jumper at the Calgary Games and, despite the fact he finished almost dead last, his popularity at those Games made him an Olympic icon.
"This is wonderful," said Edwards, with dozens of excited Winnipeggers cheering him on. "It's almost as good as competing in Calgary 22 years ago, only a lot safer. I just hope I don't fall down and drop it, or anything like that.
"I am immensely proud and honoured to be invited back to Canada and be a part of the whole Olympic dream again," said Edwards.
The torch made its way through the West End and down Portage Avenue, reaching Polo Park Shopping Centre by 8:25 a.m.
Turning off Portage Avenue at the Perimeter Highway, the torch was driven to Oak Bluff, where Jody Champagne, a Domino's Pizza manager, took it from there for his 300-metre section of the relay.
"I'm freezing," said Champagne, who said he would pay the $400 fee to keep the torch, "but, oh yeah, it (carrying the torch) was sure worth it."
From Oak Bluff, the torch wound its way down Highway 3 through southern Manitoba, making stops in Sanford, Carman and Morden before spending the night in Portage la Prairie.
Today, the torch is scheduled to hit places like Dakota Tipi First Nation, Gladstone, Neepawa, CFB Shilo and Brandon on its way through southern Manitoba and westward to its home at the Winter Olympics Feb. 12-28 in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C.
Brandon East NDP MLA Drew Caldwell was chosen to carry the torch through an online contest from national sponsor RBC. He said he's bound to be overwhelmed by butterflies as the torch approaches him tonight.
"Don't trip. Don't stumble. Make sure you've got a good transfer of the torch. All these things are in your head," he said. "So I'm going to be very, very careful, but very excited. I'm just thrilled to have been chosen and to be able to do it in Brandon."
Caldwell said he has already decided to purchase his torch, which will either become a "family or a community heirloom."
The torch is expected to arrive at its Brandon starting point in Dinsdale Park at about 5:45 p.m. A detailed route of the torch's trek through Brandon can be found online (at vancouver2010.com). Due to the extreme cold forecast for today, the local organizing committee has moved the cultural celebration indoors to Brandon's Keystone Centre.
-- With files from Brandon Sun
Holding it high Day 70: Winnipeg to Portage la Prairie
(Torchbearer list subject to change)
Ronald Grant Evans
Sheryl de Leon
Daljit Singh Sidhu