NOVOSIBIRSK, November 23 (RIA Novosti) – So you’re 101 years old and want to take a turn at carrying the Olympic flame, but have nothing with which to practice?
Well, that hasn’t deterred Alexander Kaptarenko, a retiree in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, who explained to RIA Novosti that he has been preparing for the event with a flame-shaped slab of frozen humpback salmon.
The epic torch relay ahead of next year’s Sochi Winter Olympics began in Moscow’s Red Square on October 7 and is set to take in all of Russia's 83 regions on a 56,000-kilometer (35,000-mile) trip.
The torch is passing through Novosibirsk next month, and the centenarian ping pong enthusiast doesn’t want to be left out of the action.
“Nobody gave me a torch [to train with], they didn't even promise one, and you need train. But how do you train?” he said. “This guy, Ruslan, gave me four small dumbbells, half a kilo each, but they're hard to hold, while a fish, big and all, can be held by its tail, thank God.”
Kaptarenko jokes that a lit torch is like a wife: You have to carry it gently and carefully.
The retiree was inspired by plans for a salmon dinner one evening and took to parading a 1.3 kilogram (2.9 pound) fish around his apartment. He has now graduated to walking outside with a heavier salmon that should be closer in shape and size to the 2.9 kilogram torch.
Kaptarenko says that although he has no plan of missing out on taking part in the relay, he hopes organizers will account for his age and reduce the standard relay distance from 200 meters to 50 meters.
Games organizers in Russia have pulled out all the stops to ensure the relay goes down in history.
Earlier this month, an unlit torch was sent up to the International Space Station and taken on the first ever Olympic relay spacewalk. Although impressive, the feat does not technically count as an official part of the overall relay.
In all, more than 14,000 torchbearers and 30,000 volunteers are to be involved in the torch’s 123-day journey as it travels by foot, car, train, plane and troika, a traditional Russian sled.