My pick for Canada's flag bearer

It's 20 days until the Opening Ceremony.

The highlight for the Olympic Opening Ceremony for me is seeing our flag bearer enter the stadium followed by Team Canada. I also love to see all the countries' uniforms and who they chose as their flag bearer. Besides looking for international athletes I love, it also gives me an idea of who to watch for.

As much as I may like to see a "professional" athlete I love carry their country's flag, I love that the U.S. has stayed away from having a professional (NBA, NHL, tennis) player carry their flag. I love hearing the story behind the athlete they choose to lead their team (that I normally don't know and possibly most Americans don't know). Click here for one example.

I love trying to guess who will be Canada's flag bearer.

Here are our latest flag bearers:

Opening Ceremony:
2012 Simon Whitfield (triathlon)
2010 Clara Hughes (speed skating)
2008 Adam van Koeverden (kayak)
2006 Danielle Goyette (hockey)
2004 Nicolas Gill (judo)
2002 Catriona Le May Doan (speed skating)
2000 Caroline Brunet (kayak)
1998 Jean-Luc Brassard (freestyle skiing)
1996 Charmaine Crooks (athletics)
1994 Kurt Browning (figure skating)
1992 Mike Smith (athletics)
1992 Sylvie Daigle (short track speed skating)

Closing Ceremony:
2012 Christine Sinclair (soccer)
2010 Joannie Rochette (figure skating)
2008 Karen Cockburn (trampoline)
2006 Cindy Klassen (speed skating)
2004 Adam van Koeverden (kayak)
2002 Jamie Salé and David Pelletier (figure skating)
2000 Simon Whitfield (triathlon)
1998 Catriona Le May Doan (speed skating)
1996 Marnie McBean and Kathleen Heddle (rowing)
1994 Myriam Bedard (biathlon)
1992 Silken Laumann (rowing)
1992 Nathalie Lambert (short track speed skating)

That is quite a list of Canadian icons leading Team Canada in the past couple of decades. Quite a list to live up to. The past few Games, Canada has had a male flag bearer for the summer Olympics and a female for winter Olympics. Will the trend continue or will they switch it up in 2014? Although it has been a woman for the last four Closing Ceremonies.

There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a flag bearer. We could choose someone with past success at the Olympics like:
  • Jasey-Jay Anderson
  • Alexandre Bilodeau
  • Chandra Crawford
  • Charles Hamelin
  • Kaillie Humphries
  • Ashleigh McIvor
  • Denny Morrison
  • Christine Nesbitt
  • Maelle Ricker
  • Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir
  • Women's hockey player
  • Men's hockey player
We could choose someone who has excelled on the world stage who hasn't yet succeeded at the Olympics:
  • Patrick Chan
  • Justine Dufour-Lapointe
  • Alex Gough
  • Erik Guay
  • Roz Groenewould
  • Alex Harvey
  • Devon Kershaw
  • Mikaël Kingsbury
  • Mark McMorris
  • Spencer O'Brien
  • Kaya Turski
Being a veteran or leader is a great quality for a flag bearer:
  • Chandra Crawford
  • Erik Guay
  • Charles Hamelin
  • Alex Harvey
  • Denny Morrison
  • Heather Moyse
  • Christine Nesbitt
  • Hayley Wickenheiser
We could choose someone with a great story like the U.S. have done in the past. 
  • Jan Hudec who emigrated from Czech republic as an infant with his parents in a home- made raft. Has overcome multiple injuries.
  • Larisa Yurkiw who funded her Olympic dream when she lost Alpine Canada funding last year while coming back from injury
  • Heather Moyse (3 time Olympian, multi-sport athlete coming back from injury)
  • Alex Harvey (making history in cross-country skiing, all in the family ... father is summer and winter Olympian)
  • siblings - Hamelin brothers (father is Speed Skating Canada program director), Dufour-Lapointe sisters
  • love story/2010 memorable moment - Charles Hamelin and Marianne St-Gelais
The competition schedule is a concern. Athletes competing the day after the Ceremony (or soon afterwards) often do not attend the Ceremony and wouldn't want to be flag bearer because it could affect their performance. Other athletes with their competition being in the second week may want to stay away from the craziness of the Olympic Games for as long as possible so may not be in Sochi for the Olympic ceremony.

Who does this cancel out? Quite a few, including Patrick Chan, Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir, Mark McMorris, Hayley Wickenheiser and Chandra Crawford.

Also looking at the past flag bearers, do we want to repeat recent sports who have been represented? 2010 speed skater, 2006 women's ice hockey, 2002 speed skating. Although worthy, this cancels out Christine Nesbitt and Haeley Wickenheiser.

Here is my short list of athletes to be Canada's flag bearer in 2014.

Alexandre Bilodeau
Pro - first gold medal on Canadian soil, if curse is real, another Canadian (Mikaël Kingsbury) could win gold (also sentimental for me having been at the moguls event to see him win gold in 2010)
Con - sportsmanship/frustration issues this season may put damper on leader criterion

Sydney Crosby
Pro - Although I would normally not want a professional athlete as flag bearer, the golden goal in 2010 ignited the country, we haven't had a male hockey player as flag bearer since 1948, he would need no introduction
Con - too mainstream/professional; has a NHL game that night - could he be in Sochi instead?

Erik Guay
Pro - most successful Canadian alpine skier with 21 World Cup podiums, crystal globe winner, world champion, downhill is well known and popular event
Con - has been SO close at the Olympics (4th and two 5ths), I'm worried about the flag bearer curse (I am SO hoping he medals in Sochi), also competes two days after the ceremony.

Charles Hamelin
Pro - 3-time Olympic medallist (2 gold within 30 minutes on home soil), 26-time World Champion medallist, family affair (brother, father, girlfriend)
Con - sport is high risk, so flag bearer curse could easily affect outcome

Alex Harvey
Pro - history making results in cross-country skiing (including 4 recent podiums of which 2 are wins), father is 2-time Olympian (1976 road cycling, 1988 cross-country skiing)
Con - has been SO close at the Olympics (4th), my fear of curse (especially with 4 recent podiums including 2 wins), competes 2 days later.

Kaillie Humphries
Pro - 2010 Olympic champion, perfect season last year
Con - competition starts Week 2 so may not be in Sochi, bobsleigh not as popular as other sports in Canada

History is being made at the 2014 Olympics with women being included in halfpipe and ski jumping. Slopestyle is also being added as a sport.

One of the major reasons for women freestyle skiing being added is Sarah Burke who lobbied the IOC for inclusion. I would love our flag bearer to be a tribute to Sarah who died January 19, 2012. Roz Groenewoud is an obvious candidate competing in the event that Sarah was the favourite to win Olympic gold. A recent injury and the event being scheduled in the second week makes me doubt that Roz would be available for the Opening Ceremony.

Another athlete inspired by Sarah is Kaya Turski who competes in slopestyle. As much as I would love to see Kaya carry the flag into the Opening Ceremony, I fear that Sarah and Kaya (or Roz) are not known enough in Canada for it to be a moment where Canada stands up with pride. It could be an opportunity however to share Sarah's story with a larger audience - especially with Canada Post releasing a Sarah Burke stamp as a pioneer of winter sports.

I received a tweet reply from Marc Durand, host of Objectif Sotchi on Radio-Canada.  He had a great idea to honour Sarah. Whoever we choose to be flag bearer could wear a Sarah sticker/patch on their uniform like many athletes do now. I would love for the whole team to wear a Sarah sticker/patch and the commentators to point it out and explain the significance.

So if the decision was up to me who would I choose as flag bearer? I would choose someone with experience and knowledge of what it takes to succeed and how to handle disappointment at Olympic Games. I would choose someone who is not competing within 48 hours of the ceremony. My choice doesn't "need" to win a medal to complete their career but are expected to medal. I would choose someone who has given us memorable moments and someone that the other athletes would be proud to follow into the stadium.

I would choose Charles Hamelin.

I don't have a vote though and I will be happy with whoever is chosen to lead Team Canada in to the Opening Ceremony.