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MARIO LEMIEUX, ASHLEY BARRASSO TO RUN IN OLYMPIC TORCH RELAY DEC. 20

by Staff Writer / Carolina Hurricanes
  Lemieux/Ashley Barrasso
  Penguins' captain/owner Mario Lemieux watches as his friend and fellow cancer survivor Ashley Barrasso, 14, begins her leg through the streets of Pittsburgh on Thursday during the Olympic Torch Relay.
PITTSBURGH (Dec. 19, 2001) -- Pittsburgh Penguins owner and captain Mario Lemieux will pass the Olympic Flame to his friend and fellow cancer survivor Ashley Barrasso when the Olympic Torch Relay travels through the Pittsburgh area on Dec. 20. Ashley is the daughter of Tom Barrasso, the Carolina Hurricanes' goaltender, former Penguins goaltender and a 2002 USA Olympic hopeful. Lemieux and Barrasso were chosen by Coca-Cola to run in the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Torch Relay and will be among 11,500 torchbearers who are carrying the Olympic Flame. The Torch travels through 46 states and over 13,500 miles en route to the Opening Ceremonies of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City on Feb. 8.

Date: Thursday, Dec. 20
Time: Approximately 8:30 - 9 a.m.
Location: Wilkinsburg, Pa.
Route: Mario Lemieux will carry the Olympic Flame beginning at the intersection of Penn Ave. & Ross Ave. to South Ave., where he will hand-off to Ashley Barrasso, who will run on Ardmore Ave. to Rebecca St.

Lemieux, captain of the 2002 Canadian Olympic Hockey Team, and Ashley Barrasso met when her father played for the Pittsburgh Penguins. But Ashley and Lemieux's connection is stronger than hockey - both are cancer survivors and both have lived to tell their stories of perseverance and courage. Mario and Ashley have made a difference by inspiring others and embodying the Olympic Spirit in their everyday lives. Their stories exemplify the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Torch Relay's focus on inspirational people in America.

Ashley, 14, was first diagnosed with neuroblastoma when she was four years old. Given a 15 percent chance of survival, Ashley underwent chemotherapy, radiation, surgery and a life-saving bone marrow transplant before sending the cancer into remission. Ten years later, she was again diagnosed with neuroblastoma. Ashley won that round of her battle, too.

In January 1993, in the midst of his storied hockey career, Mario was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease. After six weeks of treatments, Mario returned to the ice to finish the 1992-93 season. He took the 1994-95 season off to recover before going on to win two consecutive scoring titles in 1995-96 and 1996-97. Lemieux retired following the 1996-97 season and while in retirement led the campaign to rescue the Penguins from bankruptcy, before buying the team in 1999. On Dec. 27, 2000, he announced that after 44 months he would return to the ice. In a little more than half the season, Lemieux tallied 35 goals, finishing among the top 20 goal-scorers. Lemieux will make his first Olympic appearance in Salt Lake City.

The National Hockey League will suspend play during the 2001-2002 season in order to allow players to participate on behalf of their respective countries at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City. Olympic teams will be composed of players as selected by their respective National Governing Body. Final Olympic rosters will be submitted to the International Ice Hockey Federation no later than Dec. 22.

For more information contact: Tom McMillan, Pittsburgh Penguins, 412-642-1828 / Susan McDermott, Coca-Cola North America, 404-216-4340

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