Wickenheiser named as Canadian flag-bearer for Sochi

Thu Jan 23, 2014 12:41pm EST
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(Reuters) - Hayley Wickenheiser, Canada's most decorated female ice hockey player and an outspoken critic of Russia's anti-gay laws, was named on Thursday as her country's flag-bearer for next month's Sochi Winter Games.

A triple gold medallist and pioneer of her sport who has played professionaly in men's leagues, Wickenheiser said she was honored to be chosen to represent her country.

"You don't really think about carrying the flag in the Olympic Games when you are a kid growing up and having a dream to go to the Olympics," she told reporters on a conference call on Thursday.

"For us in women's hockey, the Olympics is our Stanley Cup. It's what we play for every four years, it's what we strive for, it is everything."

Once named one of Sports Illustrated's Top 25 Toughest Athletes in the World, Wickenheiser will be making her sixth Olympic appearance.

She has competed in ice hockey at the last four Winter Olympics - winning three gold medals and a silver - as well as competing in softball at the summer Olympics at Sydney in 2000.

"I personally do think the flag-bearer should represent those athletes that live most of their lives in this arena of amateur sport and elite sport outside of professional sport," she said.

"I do think there is something pure about having those athletes who toil in the shadows of the pro spotlight doing it."

The Canadian Olympic Committee, who made the announcement at Ottawa's Parliament Hill, had a large number of worthy athletes to choose from for the honor.   Continued...

Canada's Hayley Wickenheiser hits Russia's Anna Shibanova during the second period of their semi-final game at the IIHF Ice Hockey Women's World Championship in Ottawa April 8, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Wattie