Historic Paralympics sets up flag-bearer battle between Rivard, Lakatos

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With four silver medals in Tokyo, Brent Lakatos is a strong contender to be Canada's closing ceremony flag-bearer. (Ivan Alvarado/Reuters - image credit)
With four silver medals in Tokyo, Brent Lakatos is a strong contender to be Canada's closing ceremony flag-bearer. (Ivan Alvarado/Reuters - image credit)

With the Tokyo Paralympics nearing an end, it's time for the closing ceremony flag-bearer discussion to begin.

And whether you've been following the competition closely or just checking in from afar, there are two names you probably hear constantly: Aurélie Rivard and Brent Lakatos.

The duo has combined for half of Canada's 18 medals in Tokyo and could still add to their totals with one event remaining for each.

And so the debate for Canada's closing ceremony flag-bearer is an interesting one.

WATCH | What you missed on Day 9 in Tokyo:

Live coverage of the closing ceremony will be available on CBC-TV, CBCSports.ca and CBC Gem beginning Sunday at 6 a.m. ET.

The case for Rivard

Rivard has won a handful of medals in Tokyo: gold in the S10 100-metre freestyle and 400m freestyle, silver in the 100m backstroke, bronze in the 50m freestyle and 4x100m medley relay.

The haul doubles Rivard's career total to 10 podium appearances, making her one of 10 Canadians all-time in double digits (Lakatos is also on this list).

She has one last chance to increase that total in the SM10 200m individual medley on Thursday night.

The 25-year-old's pair of gold medals make up two-thirds of Canada's total (Greg Stewart's shot put title is the other), and she's heading home with more hardware than any other Canadian at this point.

WATCH | Rivard adds backstroke silver:

Given all that, you may be wondering why there is even a discussion. Rivard was extremely successful in a marquee sport — the choice should be easy.

However, the St-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, Que., native carried the flag in the 2016 closing ceremony after she won four medals, including three gold. Typically, national federations shy away from picking the same athlete twice in a row.

Also, at 25, it's likely Rivard isn't done just yet. Perhaps the Canadian Paralympic Committee likes the idea of its star swimmer leading the country into Paris 2024.

The case for Lakatos

That's where Lakatos comes in. At 41 years old, the Dorval, Que., native still can't be counted out of future Games.

But he's said that he considered retirement as far back as 13 years ago after the Beijing Games. He says the competition keeps him coming back, but at some point Lakatos will call it quits.

Tokyo showed Lakatos is still at or near the peak of his powers. He won four silvers (T53 100m, 400m, 800m, 5,000m) across five events, with the marathon still to come. He missed the final in the 1,500m.

WATCH | Lakatos collects latest silver in 800m:

Lakatos now owns 11 career Paralympic medals, with the lone gold coming in the 2016 100m in Rio.

And despite this being his fifth Paralympics, he has never been a flag-bearer. Between his silver surge in Tokyo, his age and his history at the Games, Lakatos would make sense as the choice to represent Canada.

Logistically, though, it may be difficult. Lakatos' final event, the marathon, begins on Sunday at 7:30 a.m. in Tokyo. The closing ceremony starts less than 12 hours later.

The case for 2 others

There are two other strong (quite literally, in one case) contenders to earn the honour.

The first is Stewart, the seven-foot-two, 350-pound Paralympic shot put champion.

In his first Games after switching from sitting volleyball five years ago, the 35-year-old from Kamloops, B.C., notched a Paralympic record of 16.75 metres en route to gold.

Stewart was dominant in the event, posting the top three throws as he rolled to victory.

WATCH | Stewart soars to shot put gold:

There's also Kate O'Brien, who won silver in the track cycling 500m time trial in her Paralympic debut.

The 33-year-old Calgary native competed in the 2016 Olympics before a horrible 2017 crash temporarily derailed her career. Tokyo, then, signalled a remarkable comeback story for O'Brien.

WATCH | O'Brien takes track cycling silver:

However, COVID-19 rules at the Paralympics, like the Olympics, state that athletes must leave Tokyo no more than 48 hours after their last event. Both Stewart and O'Brien wrapped up more than two days before the closing ceremony, though an exception was made for Canada's Olympic closing flag-bearer Damian Warner, who won the decathlon more than two days before the ceremony.

It won't be long before the official decision is announced.

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