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Olympic Torch To Leave Maryland, Continue Journey South

June 20, 1996

BALTIMORE (AP) _ Bad weather didn’t dampen spirits as the Olympic torch made its way through Baltimore.

Torrents of rain failed to douse the flame Wednesday as Doug Wilson carried it into Baltimore’s crowded Inner Harbor. The runner lit a cauldron amid cheering fans shortly after 11 p.m. to signal the torch’s arrival in Maryland’s largest city.

It was scheduled to leave Maryland today.

Earlier Wednesday, as Renee Saxton Forgue began to carry the Olympic torch in a gray drizzle, it was hard to tell whether the one-mile jog meant more to her or to family members who have watched her struggle with the death of her 3-year-old daughter.

``She’s a special person, she deserves this honor,″ Forgue’s aunt, Catherine Gott, said after watching her niece join in the torch relay. ``She’s had so much tragedy in her life and this will bring her some joy.″

The Newark, Del., coffee shop owner beamed in matching white shorts and singlet as she posed for pictures with neighborhood children before beginning her run before a crowd of 300. ``It’s incredible, just incredible,″ she said.

Forgue, 30, was invited to carry the torch because of her involvement with the Special Olympics, which her mother, Patty Saxton, said helped her overcome the loss of her daughter Samantha three years ago to a respiratory illness.

``God has given her something back. It’s a blessing for her,″ Saxton said.

John Stucker, 37, of Wilmington, Del., was among 12 co-workers who left their jobs temporarily to watch as the 3 1/2-pound gold and aluminum torch passed from Delaware into Maryland.

``I just think I’ll never get to see it again. It’s a once in a lifetime event,″ Stucker said.

Franklin Shakespeare, 65, who won an Olympic gold medal in rowing in 1952, carried the flame through Wilmington. He trained by running with a 4-pound pipe.

``As an athlete, I know you don’t go out and do things all of a sudden,″ Shakespeare said.

Not everyone was swept away with Olympic fever.

Pat Valdata, an assistant professor of English at the University of Delaware, said she was disappointed by the commercialization of the event. She pointed to the long procession of trucks selling and promoting Coca-Cola items.

``It really is cheesy. It’s a shame they can’t do anything without making it a commercial,″ she said.

Among those carrying the torch in Maryland were Robert Reuter, a disabled transportation engineer; firefighter Jeffrey Utzinger; Nicholas R. Walters, a George Washington University sophomore who suffers from juvenile diabetes; and Ronald E. Weber, a 10th grade student at the Carver Center for Arts and Technology.

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