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'Child of Light' Reprises Role in Closing Ceremony - 2002-02-24

Thirteen-year-old Ryne Sanborn is keeping a secret. The Salt Lake City resident will be part of the closing ceremony for the Winter Olympics, and he is sworn to secrecy about the program. The aspiring hockey player also had an important role in the opening ceremony.

The seventh-grade student in Salt Lake City was the "child of light" for the opening of the Olympics, skating through the opening ceremony with a lantern symbolizing the struggles of humanity. He will perform in that role again in the closing ceremony. The youngster says he was not very optimistic when he tried out for the part. "I went with a bunch of my hockey buddies to an audition at a regular skating rink, and we skated around through some cones, over some cones," Ryne recalls. "And I came for a callback and skated around a little bit and they took me into a little room and said I was the main child."

The theme of the winter Olympics is "light the fire within" and Ryne symbolized the theme at the opening ceremony, as he skated through arena fighting off obstacles. His father, Jeff Sanborn, describes the role as program director Kenny Ortega described it to him: "He would be representing humanity and the struggle to overcome adversity using the fire within each of us."

Ryne was shocked that to learn he was chosen because he thought the program producers wanted a figure skater, not just a kid who plays hockey. But they wanted a typical youngster who could skate well. The selection took place last September, and Ryne was told his involvement must be a secret.

Jeff Sanborn was more nervous than his son at the opening ceremony. So was Ryne's mother. "I was so nervous, sick to my stomach, but he was fine," she said.

Ryne's 10-year old sister, Danielle, was also part of the ceremony, performing as one of several hundred children of light who fill the arena. She was not let in on the secret until rehearsal time, for fear she might tell somebody. "They just asked me if I wanted to be in it, and I said sure," she recalls.

Ryne's dramatic performance at the opening ceremony was seen by hundreds of millions of people on television. The next day, his friends at school expressed their amazement. "Lots of kids were saying why didn't you tell me. And I said, I couldn't."

And what can the world expect for the closing ceremonies of the Salt Lake City Olympics? Ryne says, once again, he is sworn to secrecy. "I'm not allowed to say anything. I can say it's not going to be as serious as the opening ceremonies were, it's going to be more like a party, but that's about all I can say."

Ryne's interests lean toward sports. He likes to rollerblade, snowboard, play baseball and soccer. He hopes to someday to play hockey on the U.S. Olympic team, and maybe after that play professional hockey. But all that will come later. For now, he is focusing on his role as the Olympic "child of light" for the closing ceremony Sunday evening.