Updated: July 27, 2013 at 3:09 pm
With one step, Billy Thompson started the multileg mini torch relay Friday to officially start the Rocky Mountain State Games.
With one lift, John Coughlin helped Caydee Denney light the cauldron, much to the delight of thousands of onlookers at the second annual Olympic Downtown Celebration on Tejon Street.
"We talked to the people at U.S. Figure Skating, and they asked what we could do what other sports can't do," said Coughlin, who with Denney are hoping to represent the national figure skating pairs team at the upcoming 2014 Sochi Winter Games. "Lifting is what we do. We were just told to light it and get back when the pyro started. We didn't want to be part of the pyro show."
By the time Denney reached over to light the 12-foot-tall Olympic-style cauldron on a stage near the intersection of Tejon and Colorado, 10 individuals had carried and passed the torch, eventually making its way to a team of firefighters and first responders from the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires.
From there, Terry Maketa, El Paso County sheriff, handed it off to Coughlin, then to Denney.
Even after a long work week, Thompson, a 13-year veteran of the Broncos and member of the club's Ring of Fame, didn't hesitate when asked to join in the celebration.
The former defensive back serves as the club's director of community outreach.
"I was honored," Thompson said. "The Broncos have always been involved in this, and we wanted to come down and support it. I got lucky enough to carry the torch for a little bit, which was really neat. I admit, I got a little nervous. It wasn't like in my playing days, but it was very exciting."
The excitement downtown actually started an hour before the official celebration.
About 500 runners and walkers from different competitive levels took part in the Color in Motion 5K, arriving in Antlers Park as virtual kaleidoscopes, the result of being bombarded at three locations along the course.
It didn't seem to bother anyone.
"Usually, I do a half marathon or longer, so this one was a fun one," said Denver's Jo Levitt, the first female contestant to cross the finish line. "These races are pretty cool. I've noticed these kinds of races over the past two or three years, and I have a lot of friends who like these rather than the traditional road races."
On a day where the city's downtown was transformed into an area of celebration, racers found a way to embrace that spirit.
Earlier this week, Amanda Cook returned from a year of volunteer cross-cultural work in Zimbabwe. Still a little woozy from a transcontinental flight, the 2006 Sierra graduate had every reason to sit back and take it easy on a Friday night.
Instead, she decided to take part in her first competitive race, joining friend and fellow Goshen (Ind.) College graduate Indigo Miller.
"I decided to do this as a community and with friends," Cook said. "The Olympics has to do with world community. This race was hard on me, but it was OK to walk."
Miller, a 2008 Doherty graduate, had previous experience in competitive races but found a bigger, more important reason to race.
"The competition brings people together, but it's not about winning," said Miller, an aspiring registered nurse. "We're here to support people who work hard, whether or not they win gold or not."