The Olympics have given us many intriguing storylines over the past two weeks, and now it’s time to focus on the final one. Who will carry Canada’s flag at the Sochi 2014 Closing Ceremony? There are a number of excellent candidates to choose from, so as the Games come to a close, let the debates begin.
Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir
The Canadian Olympic Committee could subtly let everyone know its feelings about the ice dance judging controversy by making Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir co-flag bearers. (Though speaking out about the judging could damage relations with certain skating federations, as well as the IOC.) The decision would also be a tip of the cap to the team that won two silver medals in Sochi, in what is probably their last Olympics. The sweethearts of ice dance would be Canada’s first co-flag bearers since Jamie Sale and David Pelletier at Salt Lake City 2002. Of course, that duo was also rocked by a judging controversy.
He is the only freestyle skier to ever successfully defend an Olympic gold medal. Alex Bilodeau was a top candidate to bear Canada’s flag at the 2010 Closing Ceremony in Vancouver and at this year’s Opening Ceremony in Sochi, but didn’t get the call either time. The king of moguls is now heading into retirement, so this is the last chance for Bilodeau to carry the flag. A freestyle skier has never led Canada into the Closing Ceremony at an Olympics, and the last person to do it at the Opening Ceremony was Jean-Luc Brassard at Nagano in 1998. A Bilodeau selection would also recognize the contributions of French-Canadian athletes, as Quebec has accounted for more medals than any other province at these Games.
Once Jan Hudec made it to 2014, he ended the long, puzzling and painful 20-year wait for a Canadian to win an Olympic medal in alpine skiing. The struggle was in getting to 2014, having undergone seven knee surgeries since 2003. In Hudec, winner of a bronze medal in Super-G, the flag bearer honour would accentuate the story of an underdog, whose resilience and dedication resulted in somewhat of a miracle. It fits the narrative that has come to define the Olympics over the years, where history is made and anything can happen. As flag bearer, Hudec would end another drought, as no alpine skier has led Canada into the Closing Ceremony since Karen Percy at Calgary in 1988.
If athletic performance is the main criterion for choosing a flag bearer, look no further than Jennifer Jones. In her first Olympics, Jones dominated the curling rink. She went undefeated and was barely challenged en route to the gold medal. The honour would also cast a spotlight on curling, which has a long and prosperous history in Canada, but receives less attention nationally than other major sports. Curling has yet to produce a flag bearer at the Olympics, and Jones would make a great first.
Whenever a Twitter hashtag catches on, it’s worth noticing. The #GilForFlagBearer campaign has been going strong since long track speed skater Gilmore Junio gave his spot in the 1000-metre event to teammate Denny Morrison, who rewarded the faith with a silver medal. Junio’s selfless deed epitomizes the Olympic spirit, along with good ol’ fashioned Canadian kindness. Junio gave his spot, and Canada may now give Junio its flag at the Sochi Closing Ceremony. If chosen, he would become the first Canadian to not win a medal and be the flag bearer at the Closing Ceremony.
Denny Morrison will leave Sochi as the only Canadian athlete to take home two individual medals. (Leave room here for potential team pursuit medal) The 1000-metre silver and 1500-metre bronze medals came as a surprise, as Morrison had not been on an international podium in two years. A disappointing Vancouver 2010 had Morrison feeling down in the dumps, and four years later he’s walking on cloud nine. Leading Canada into the Closing Ceremony would represent his storybook turnaround and inspire other athletes facing similar adversity.