Columbus man to carry Olympic torch at Rio games

Columbus man to carry Olympic torch at Rio games

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -  The Summer Olympic Games in Rio aren't kicking off for two more weeks, but a select few still have the duty to carry the Olympic torch to its final destination. 

That's the honor one Columbus man won, and he's on his way to Brazil as the world prepares to watch. 

On Wednesday, Leroy "Duke" White will board a plane to Sao Paolo to do something not many people in history can claim to have accomplished.

"You go to sleep dreaming about it, praying about it," White said, "and then hopefully, when the time comes, it's a great experience."

Duke's journey to the Olympic Games began while he was working at a Nike store in Atlanta. The company offered all employees a chance to compete for who would represent North America as the brand's ambassador.

"Growing up, playing sports, I loved competition too, so that was just another outlet," White said. 

White also said other coworkers submitted applications, saying everyone just wanted to compete, never once thinking that any of them could be chosen.

Duke's family and friends joined him during church service at St. James CME Church in Columbus to wish him well. After the service, the church's pastor, the Rev. TJ Davis, Jr., and others let him know just how proud they are of this and his other accomplishments.

"It's a great opportunity for him to be able to do something like this, of this magnitude; to carry a torch," Davis said.

Cheryl Johnson, a longtime family friend and one of Duke's mentors throughout his college years, said she expects great things from him in the future. 

"You know, just looking at him, and watching him grow up, I think one day he could even be the CEO of Nike," Johnson said. 

White, however, said what he relishes most is the opportunity to represent his hometown with pride and serve as a role model for others.

"I've never changed, I've never shied away from telling people I'm from Columbus too," White said.

"So that responsibility is something that I work for and I love having to have. I have no doubt in my mind that it'll be a great experience and that I'll represent to the fullest," he said. 

Once White returns from Brazil, he'll be preparing  to attend the University of Oregon to in turn earn a Masters degree. 

As for where he'll run, Nike has White set up to run 200 meters in Sao Paolo, where he'll also be volunteering with local youth organizations.

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