Limelight: Roy Sakaki
On Wednesday January 27, schools in Salmon Arm, BC were closed so that students could attend the Olympic torch relay and cauldron lighting. To the delight of all, the final leg of the relay was run by popular former Salmon Arm teacher and principal Roy Sakaki, who took the torch from local curling Olympian Sandra Jenkins and lit the cauldron in front of City Hall after doing an impromptu dance on the stage.
The Sakaki family is well-known in Kamloops and the surrounding area. In 1949, Roy’s father Tetsuo Sam started a service station there, determined to start over after losing his Vancouver business in 1942. The business flourished over the next fifty years and went on to become one of the largest Toyota and Nissan dealerships in the interior. Roy is the youngest of eight siblings. While the other four boys in the family joined their father in operating the business, Roy continued his education and went on to become first a teacher and eventually a school principal. Always the most athletic member of the family, he was involved in many local sport teams and even played for the hockey team at the University of British Columbia. Even today, after retirement, he continues to operate his own hockey school for kids.
Given his service to the community, Roy was the unanimous choice of the Salmon Arm Olympic committee to represent the city in lighting the Olympic cauldron.
As he told the Shushwap Market News, “I was so nervous, so emotional. I’ve got my pockets full of Kleenex, because I really didn’t know how I was going to react, but to take this torch and run it up in front of the community of Salmon Arm, I have never been so proud. I’m on top of the world!”
Roy spoke to The Bulletin about his experience: “It was an honour and privilege to be the final torchbearer for the city of Salmon Arm. I was so fortunate to be able to light the cauldron in front of many students, friends, my own children, my grandchildren and my brothers and sisters and my partner Sandy, who all came out to support me. When I got onto the stage, I felt I was floating on a cloud and began doing the moonwalk!!! I had a call from Dale Johnston (formerly Miwa) and she left a message on my phone . . . she said it made all Japanese Canadians proud of this event. Dale’s husband, Howard, was a former Member of Parliament and passed away a few years ago.Can you believe Mrs. Miwa was my brother’s grade one teacher in 1951 in Kamloops. Since the January 27th event, I have been invited to schools, Alzheimer’s Walk of Memories and to people’s houses . . . everyone wants to touch the torch. It has been a great way to unite Canadians from coast to coast. My last comment on the stage was to honour Shea Weber and his family whom I have known since Shea’s minor hockey days in Sicamous.”
In addition to the torch relay itself, residents were on hand to show support for Weber, a defenseman on Team Canada’s gold medal-winning men’s hockey team who was born in nearby Sicamous. Drafted in the second round, 49th overall by the Predators in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Weber plays for the Nashville Predators and has also suited up for the Sicamous Eagles of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League and the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League.