Published: 2 August, 2012
by NATE SAUNDERS
SPRINTER Desiree Henry has labelled lighting the Olympic cauldron at the London 2012 opening ceremony in front of a global audience of more than a billion as the greatest moment of her life, writes.
The 16-year-old was one of seven young athletes nominated for the honour by former Olympic champions at the end of Danny Boyle’s opening showpiece on Friday.
Nominated by two-time Olympic decathlon gold medallist Daley Thompson, Desiree was told of her role by none other than Oscar-winning director Boyle himself during the World Junior Championships in Barcelona last month, where she finished fourth in the 200m.
“It was an out-of-body experience,” said the City and Islington College pupil. “I can’t even put it into words what it felt like, it didn’t seem real and it still doesn’t.
“It’s an experience I will not forget in a million years – just to be in the stadium alone was special, but to be part of such a historic moment like that was just incredible.
“We had done it a couple of times in rehearsals, but absolutely nothing could have prepared me for the real thing. It was a moment we’ll all cherish for a really long time.
“When I was first told I was stunned – it was just amazing to me that Daley Thompson even knew who I was, let alone that he was nominating me to light the flame.
Aside from mother Valerie, not even Desiree’s family and friends knew anything about her role in the ceremony, let alone that she would be part of the iconic finale. And with two weeks between being told and taking part in the ceremony, Desiree believes it’s remarkable she that managed to keep it quiet for so long.
“I’m surprised I even managed to keep it a secret for that long, that in itself was an amazing achievement,” she said.
“I would be speaking to friends and family and all I wanted to do was yell at the top of my lungs what I was doing.
“But I had to keep it in and act normally. It sounds ridiculous now but it was really tough. The great thing is the organisers stayed true to the theme of the Games.
They said they wanted to make it all about the next generation, and to inspire them, and it was so good that they put their words into practice.”