Saskatchewan's Olympic veteran Hayley Wickenheiser says she's excited to be Canada's flag-bearer at the Sochi Winter Games which kick off on Friday.
"Just going to enjoy it and take it all in and, you know, honour the fact that I have this opportunity and that my family is going to be in the building," said Wickenheiser, who hails from Shaunavon. "So it's going to be a fun night."
Some of Wickenheiser's family will be in Sochi for the opening ceremony and the entire games. Her son Noah, 13, and her parents will be taking in the experience from the stands.
Wickenheiser said she received some valuable advice from Danielle Goyete who carried the flag for Canada at the 2006 Olympics. Goyete's words of wisdom: Don't trip. She also told Wickenheiser to enjoy the experience because it goes by fast.
"I think I'll be feeling very proud to be Canadian," said Wickenheiser. "I know that over the years I've been an athlete we've travelled around the world or visited a lot of countries and as soon as people find out you're Canadian ... they are very excited to see you."
"Canada is very well respected around the world and just to be able to carry that flag and to represent what I think is the greatest country in the world, and the people that live there ... I think there will be just enormous pride."
After her flag-bearing duties, the 35-year-old, who has won three gold medals and one silver medal in the past four Winter Games, will be hitting the ice with Team Canada on Saturday in their first game against Switzerland.
"We just had our first practice today and got our legs under us and get a feel for what the atmosphere is like," she said. "We were here in September so we know what the rink is like, and it's just now physically just getting ready to play that first game."
Taking in the city of Sochi
Wickenheiser said Sochi feels more like the summer Olympics because of the mild weather and size of the village.
"It's a big village but all the venues are central and they've done a great job," she said. "It's a very comfortable, familiar environment for me, and for those who have been to multiple Olympics before. It's kind of a home-coming of sorts."
Wickenheiser said she was happy to be able to reconnect with several German speed skaters she had met at previous Olympics.
She said each Olympic village is similar, but each city puts their own twist on it, and that's definitely the case in Sochi.
"You're within probably 300 metres of the Black Sea so it's a beautiful view every morning," she said.
"The sun comes up, the palm trees are there and then you look behind you and you see the snow on the mountains. It's quite picturesque and it is quite a beautiful setting they have here."