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Torchbearer related to Alma, O.C. . .

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Ready to run. Or at least walk briskly. That pretty well sums up Carol Wright's game plan a week from Tuesday when she will carry the Olympic torch along Main Street in her southern Utah hometown of Parowan.

If all goes as planned, Carol will bring the torch to the boyhood home of Alma Richards, Utah's first Olympic gold medalist when he won the high jump at the 1912 Games in Stockholm, Sweden.

That's "cousin Alma" to Carol.

Her grandfather and Alma's mother were brother and sister.

Carol didn't make the trip to Stockholm to watch Alma beat Jim Thorpe, among others, in the high jump. She was just 3 years old at the time. But she can remember when Alma returned in triumph to Parowan.

"The town was very, very proud," says a woman of 93 who remembers it like it was yesterday.

Or, for that matter, like it's next Tuesday.

Ninety years later, and Parowan is bracing for yet another opportunity to say "well done" to its one and only gold medalist, who already has the high school stadium named after him. Alma Richards died in 1963 at the age of 73, but his memory lives on in the cedar hills and prairies here, along with his family ties.

Carol was 18 years younger than Alma, so they didn't exactly grow up together, but she clearly remembers her "first cousin once removed" as "tall and handsome and very outgoing."

Very Olympic-like.

Oddly enough, she never asked to see Alma's gold medal, and he never showed it to her. Now, the gold medal has wound up in the Northwest somewhere in the possession of a relative of Alma's wife ? and neither Carol nor anyone else in Parowan expects to see it anytime soon.

But the torch Carol carries next Tuesday in Alma's memory will become a permanent exhibit in the city office.

"It belongs to Parowan," says Carol.

Alma isn't Carol Wright's only claim to Olympic fame. Her late brother-in-law Olbert ? he married Carol's sister Grace ? started a Salt Lake jewelry company 75 years ago he called the O.C. Tanner Co. That's the same company that is producing the gold, silver and bronze medals for the Salt Lake 2002 Olympics.

Carol's not entirely sure if she got nominated for her torch appearance because she's related to Alma or because she's related to Olbert.

Or, for that matter, if being the aunt of former Utah Gov. Scott Matheson had anything to do with it.

Carol's sister Adele married Scott Matheson Sr., the late governor's father. When the younger Scott Matheson made his first bid for the governorship in 1976, he announced his candidacy from Aunt Carol's front porch in Parowan.

This also means that Utah's current 3rd District U.S. Congressman Jim Matheson ? son of the governor and Norma Matheson ? is Carol's great-nephew.

Carol Wright would be the last person to brag about it, but she is very well-connected.

And Tuesday, Feb. 5, the governor's aunt, the congressman's great-aunt, the famous jeweler's sister-in-law and the gold medalist's cousin will be something none of them have ever been: a proud bearer of the Olympic flame.

Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to benson@desnews.com and faxes to 801-237-2527.