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Rochette, Bilodeau could carry flag on Sunday

Wickenheiser, Montgomery, Virtue and Moir also possible candidates

Last Updated: Sunday, February 28, 2010 | 7:04 AM ET

As speedskater Clara Hughes recognized, being chosen Canada's Olympic flag-bearer is a most distinguished honour.

While Hughes held the title at this year's opening ceremony, equally as honourable is performing the duty at the close of the Games.

With the final day of the Vancouver Olympics upon us, the question of who will carry the flag of the host nation is once again the talk of the country.

The final decision will be made by a selection committee that includes the chef de mission, assistant chef de mission and a group of Olympic athletes.

The closing ceremony will be held at BC Place on Sunday.

No-brainer

At the 2006 Games in Turin, Italy, speedskater Cindy Klassen was selected for the task.

That decision, it could be argued, was a no-brainer.

Klassen captured five medals at that Olympics.

With a bronze from the 2002 Olympics, it brought her total to six career Olympic medals, the most ever for a Canadian Olympic athlete.

Other closing ceremony flag-bearers at Winter Games have included:

Karen Cockburn was chosen to carry Canada's flag at the closing ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Games, following a silver medal in women's trampoline.

It was her third straight medal at an Olympics.

This year's Games have generated a handful of worthy candidates.

Below, are a few of the possible candidates:

Alexandre Bilodeau

After the first day of Olympic competition passed and Canada still hadn't produced its first gold medal on home soil, it was 22-year-old Alexandre Bilodeau who finally delivered.

On Feb. 14, in his second Olympic Games, the French-Canadian skier from Rosemère, Que., took first in the moguls event.

Bilodeau beat Vancouver-born Dale Begg-Smith, who competes for Australia, to take the gold medal.

Warming the hearts of Canadians, after the victory, he spoke of his older brother, Frédéric, who has cerebral palsy.

"It's really getting me right now," he said. "My brother has been an inspiration for me. Growing up with a brother that's handicapped, you learn so much."

Joannie Rochette

Even before the Games began, many Canadians already had a soft spot for 24-year-old Joannie Rochette of Île-Dupas, Que, in the Berthierville area.

She had the potential to win Canada's first women's figure skating medal in over 20 years.

But two days before the short program, her mother, Thérèse, died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 55.

Watching the grieving young woman find the courage to compete won the hearts of the nation and the world.

Rochette skated an immaculate short program before placing her hand over her heart and saying, "for you, mom" in French.

Two days later, she earned a bronze medal following a nearly flawless performance in the long program.

Hayley Wickenheiser

She is arguably the best female hockey player in the world.

Hayley Wickenheiser, 31, has played for the women's national team since the tender age of 15.

She's won gold with Team Canada at six world championships, led the team to 11 Four Nations Cup victories and collected countless MVP awards and scoring titles.

This year, she captained the national team to its third Olympic gold medal, in a triumphant win over arch enemy Team USA.

Wickenheiser hasn't confirmed that this Olympics will be her last, but now that she has won Olympic gold on Canadian soil, little else remains for her to accomplish in her sport — that is, except perhaps to carry her country's flag at the closing ceremony.

Kristina Groves

Ottawa-native Kristina Groves came to the Vancouver 2010 Games ranked No. 1 in the world in speedskating's 1,500-metre event. She was also ranked No. 3 in the 1,000 and 3,000.

In a year when she and her teammates were expected to deliver a fair share of the host nation's medals, she's come through where others have fallen short.

The 33-year-old took bronze in the 3,000 and silver in the 1,500, becoming the first Canadian double medallist of these Games.

With her two silver medals from the 2006 Olympics, she has four career Olympic medals.

Jon Montgomery

For many, it was an iconic Canadian moment of the 2010 Games: a thickly bearded Jon Montgomery, clad in Canadian paraphernalia, beer in hand, celebrating his gold medal run on the Whistler track in men's skeleton.

Montgomery's win made the Russell, Man., native the first Canadian to deliver on a mountain that had held so much promise.

Before the 30-year-old fast talker (he works as an auto auctioneer) made his mark, a handful of hopeful alpine skiers and slider Mellisa Hollingsworth had faltered on the same hill.

His triumph and jubilant celebration lifted the spirits of the nation after a frustrating few days.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir

Ice dancers Tessa Virtue, 20, of London, Ont., and Scott Moir, 22, of Ilderton, Ont., have been competing together since they were kids.

In the second week of the Vancouver Games, the duo captured gold.

The confident, playful pair became the youngest ice-dance team to champion the event — and the first North Americans to do so in an event dominated by Europeans.

Their win gave Canada its first gold medal in figure skating since 2002 and its first medal in ice dance since 1988.

Kevin Martin

Kevin Martin is Canada's King of Curling, and with his resume, he might also hold the title on the world stage.

Known as "the Old Bear," the farm boy from Killam, Alta., is a provincial champion, national champion and world champion. He's made 10 appearances at the Brier tournament and has 11 Grand Slam victories.

And, most importantly, he is an Olympic champion, having won the gold medal at the Vancouver Games on Saturday.

Like Wickenheiser, these Games may be his last, so if he is to have a chance at carrying the Maple Leaf, it will likely have to come on Sunday.

Anderson, Ricker, McIvor

Another possibility is alpine snowboarder Jasey-Jay Anderson, of Mont-Tremblant, Que.

Vancouver 2010 was the fourth Olympics for the married father of two, and the fourth time proved to be the charm, winning gold in Saturday's parallel giant slalom event.

As well, Whistler-made gold medal winners Maëlle Ricker and Ashleigh McIvor shouldn't be discounted.

Ricker's golden moment came when she took first place in women's snowboard cross. Her victory was the first Olympic gold on home soil for a Canadian female.

McIvor's podium climb came after winning the women's skicross event.

Heading into the Olympics, pressure had been on, since she was the reigning world champion and ranked No. 2 in World Cup standings.

After the race, she told reporters she used the victory and explosive start of fellow "local girl" Ricker as an inspiration.


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