Five for the flag: Who should carry the Maple Leaf in London? | CBC Sports CBC Sports - Sochi 2014

OlympicsFive for the flag: Who should carry the Maple Leaf in London?

Posted: Thursday, May 24, 2012 | 09:54 AM

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Alexandre Despatie of Laval, Que., will become a four-time Olympian in London. He's also a two-time medallist and is fluently bilingual. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press) Alexandre Despatie of Laval, Que., will become a four-time Olympian in London. He's also a two-time medallist and is fluently bilingual. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

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The Olympic season is upon us and the Canadian team continues to take shape. As always, speculation is beginning early as to who will carry the Canadian flag into the opening ceremony at London's Olympic Stadium on July 27.

Let's stir the pot and put five names forward as potential Canadian flag bearers.
The Olympic season is upon us and the Canadian team continues to take shape. Sport leaders in this country have boldly targeted a top-12 finish at the London Games. That means Canadian athletes will have to win more than the 18 medals they managed in Beijing four summers ago.

As always, speculation is beginning early as to who will carry the Canadian flag into the opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium on Friday, July 27.

Let's stir the pot and put five names forward as potential Canadian flag bearers.

Keep in mind that certain unwritten rules will at least partially govern the choice of who does the honours. History tells us that men and women alternate as flag bearers, and that some consideration is given to high-profile athletes who are bilingual.

Speedskater Clara Hughes carried the flag for Canada in Vancouver 2010. Kayaker Adam van Koeverden did the honours in 2008 in Beijing.  Both will be competing in London - Hughes as a cyclist in hopes of winning one more medal to become the most decorated Canadian Olympian in history.  Both could be candidates to carry the pennant this time around, but it would go against tradition to have an athlete repeat as flag bearer.

Also, each sport nominates an athlete to stand as a candidate to carry the flag, and we never know for sure who that is because it's considered a confidential matter.

Finally, athletes who are competing close to the opening ceremony are unlikely to accept the call because they, quite rightly, choose to focus on the task at hand, which is of course to compete to the best of their abilities. But carrying the flag is, without question, one of the biggest honours in all of sport, and one that very few Canadians would decline if performing the duty doesn't directly interfere with their preparation to compete.

We'll revisit the top choices as the announcement of the flag bearer gets closer. It's expected that the decision will be made by the Canadian Olympic Committee around the second week of July.

Be sure to visit CBCSports.ca next week, when we'll present an expanded, tournament-style field of 16 candidates for you to vote on. We'll match the athletes up one-on-one, with the top vote-getter advancing until we arrive at your choice for Canada's flag bearer.

Below are my top five candidates for the moment. Read up on them, then cast your vote at the bottom of the page for who you think deserves the honour of carrying the Canadian flag.

Christine Sinclair

If Canada is a country built on the team concept, as we sometimes claim, then why not call on the captain of the highest-profile Canadian team to qualify for the Games?

Sinclair is the admirable skipper of the women's soccer squad, and arguably one of the best players on the face of the earth. She is prolific and gutsy and she played through a broken nose at the last World Cup in Germany.

Sinclair also led Canada to a gold medal at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. She carried the flag in the opening ceremony there, but the Pan Ams aren't the Olympics, and Sinclair is a high-profile Canadian superstar in what may be this country's only chance at a team medal in London.

Ian Millar

Speaking of captains, how about "Captain Canada" himself? Millar, of show jumping fame, will be making his 10th appearance in Olympic competition.  That will be an all-time international record for longevity.

Millar won silver in the team event in 2008 in Hong Kong and is already a member of Canada's Sports Hall of Fame.  Yes, he rides a horse, but Millar qualifies as an iconic Canadian all on his own.

Carol Huynh

Huynh is the wrestler from Hazelton, B.C. who won gold and started the ball rolling for Canada in Beijing four years ago. She is also a Commonwealth and Pan American Games champion, as well as a former world champion.

Huynh is also a reflection of Canadian diversity. Her parents are refugees from Vietnam who were sponsored by the United Church in Hazelton.

Huynh is an accomplished, experienced athlete who embodies the multi-cultural spirit of a nation growing in sporting prowess.

Simon Whitfield

You can't ignore Whitfield when it comes to looking for an appropriate athlete/leader.  

Whitfield put triathlon on the map at the Olympics when he won the gold medal in the sport's debut in Sydney in 2000. London marks his fourth Games, and he recently had a Tube station in the Olympic city named in his honour.  

Whitfield staged a spectacular late charge to take silver in Beijing in 2008. He is universally respected in international circles as the genial, all-Canadian pied piper of multi- sport racing. He's also a 37-year-old father of two children who has somehow been able to embrace family life as well as the elusive Olympic ideal. This is no small feat.

Alexandre Despatie

The "Little Prince" has become the undisputed king of diving in Canada.

Despatie has dominated the sport in this country since he became a Commonwealth Games champion at age 13. Since then, he's won three world championships and come back from injury to claim two Olympic silver medals in a sport where the Chinese are all but invincible.

Despatie is a rock star in his home province of Quebec and wears his Canadian heart on his sleeve.  

London 2012 will mark his fourth trip to Olympics.  He's still a contender for more than one medal when you count the synchronized and individual events, and he's the only one of the five candidates mentioned here who is fluently bilingual. In Canada, that still counts for a lot.

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