Triathlete and two-time Olympic medalist Simon Whitfield has been named as Canada's flagbearer for the 2012 London Olympics.
Whitfield won a gold medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and a silver at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The London games will be his fourth consecutive Olympics.
"It’s an honour to have the opportunity to carry our flag while representing the sport of triathlon, but more importantly, it’s a privilege to be the one who will lead this amazing team of Canadian athletes who have dedicated their lives to achieving their Olympic dream and represent our nation on the world’s greatest sporting stage," Whitfield said in a release from the Canadian Olympic Committee.
Fans and athletes were overwhelmingly positive about the selection. "The most inspiring dude I know. @simonwhitfield is our FlagBearer and I couldn't be more proud," tweeted kayaker and fellow Olympian Adam van Koeverden.
The win in Sydney, the first time the triathlon was run at the Olympics, came in dramatic fashion. Whitfield came back from a crash during the bike segment of the race to catch Germany's Stephan Vuckovic.
He would capture a silver medal at the Beijing Olympics, losing out to Germany's Jan Frodeno by only five seconds.
Other athletes that were rumoured as potential flagbearers include Ian Millar, a member of Canada's equestrian team, who will be participating at his 10th Olympic games, a record for any Olympian. Clara Hughes, one of the only athletes ever to medal at both the Winter and Summer Olympics, was also a favourite. Cyclist Catherine Pendrel won a CBC poll of athletes who should be named flagbearer.
There is speculation that 37-year-old Whitfield will retire after these Olympic games. Whitfield was born in Kingston, Ont. but now lives in Victoria, B.C. with his wife and two young daughters.
Thursday's announcement was interrupted by a protester concerned about the federal government's cuts to refugee health care.
While two conservative ministers were speaking, Ottawa family doctor Doug Gruner interrupted the announcement yelling at the men.
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Physicians have no other choice but to crash Conservative announcements in order to protest the cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program because Immigration Minister Jason Kenney refuses to meet with them, Gruner told reporters.
"I've been a physician for almost 20 years, I can tell you as a doctor on the front line of health care, that these refugees are going to be incredibly affected by these cuts," he said.
Gruner said he didn't want to interrupt Whitfield's announcement because he's a big fan of the "amazing athlete" and he wept when the triathlete won a silver medal in Beijing in 2008.
"I didn't interrupt the flag ceremony, I didn't interrupt anyone else except for the minister right now," he said.
With files from Althia Raj
See Whitfield In Action:
Fans, Athletes React To Announcement:
Adam van Koeverden
Adam van Koeverden
<strong><u>Canoe/Kayak</u></strong> The veteran paddler has an Olympic medal of every colour and he'll be gunning to add to his collection in London. Van Koeverden, who served as Canadian flag-bearer at the opening ceremonies in 2008, should be a contender in the K1 1,000-metre event. The 30-year-old from Oakville, Ont., won a world title at that distance last year in Hungary.
<strong><u>Athletics</u></strong> The 31-year-old shot putter from Kamloops, B.C., is hoping to erase the painful memory of coming less than a centimetre short of a medal at the 2008 Games in Beijing. Armstrong was ranked No. 1 in the world last season but battled injuries over the winter. He didn't qualify for the world indoor final last March but has looked solid in the lead-up to London, consistently performing well on the Diamond League circuit.
<strong><u>Diving</u></strong> This will be the fourth Summer Games for the 27-year-old diver from Laval, Que. He has won silver in the men's three-metre springboard at the last two Games but his preparation took a major blow in mid-June when he hit his head on the diving board while training in Spain.
<strong><u>Triathlon</u></strong> The 2000 Olympic triathlon champion is still going strong at age 37. After winning gold at the Sydney Olympics, Whitfield struggled at the 2004 Games in Athens before bouncing back with a silver medal four years later in Beijing. The Victoria resident has ramped up his training regimen this year to hang with the youngsters on the Olympic course in London.
<strong><u>Tennis</u></strong> Expect to hear some oohs and aahs when Raonic steps on court at the All-England Club. He has a rocket of a serve and the game to back it up. Raonic has posted victories over some of the game's top players this season. The 21-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., could make a splash at the home of Wimbledon.
<strong><u>Swimming</u></strong> Cochrane is one of the best bets for a podium appearance among Canadian swimmers. The 23-year-old from Victoria, who won bronze in the 1,500-metre freestyle four years ago, will compete in the 1,500 and 400-metre freestyle events in London. Cochrane holds national records at both distances.
<strong><u>Gymnastics</u></strong> The trampoline veteran has reached the podium at every Olympics since the event was added to the program at the Sydney Games in 2000. The 31-year-old Toronto native is hoping her fourth Games will bring her that elusive Olympic gold medal. Cockburn is known for her strong flight times, which could give her a slight edge in London since the height of an athlete's jumps will now be factored into the overall score.
<strong><u>Cycling</u></strong> She's pushing 40 and showing no signs of slowing down. Hughes, who has reached the speedskating podium at the last three Winter Games, will be back on the bike in London. It's her first appearance at the Summer Olympics since the Sydney Games in 2000. The Winnipeg native won two bronze medals in road cycling at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
<strong><u>Boxing</u></strong> First came the wakeup call and then a near-knockout blow. Spencer, a three-time world boxing champion, suffered her first defeat in over a year last April and followed it up a month later with an upset loss in her first bout at the world championships. The 27-year-old Wiarton, Ont., native qualified for London as a wild-card entry. She hopes to return to the form that saw her win gold at the Pan-Am Games last fall.