SPORTS

Groundswell of support for Canada's soccer captain Sinclair to carry flag

08/10/2012 04:28 EDT | Updated 10/10/2012 05:12 EDT
LONDON - If the virtual community had any say, Christine Sinclair would be the popular choice to carry Canada's flag into the closing ceremony of the London Olympics.

Twitter has been abuzz with support for Canada's women's soccer captain since she led her team to a bronze medal three days after recording a hat trick in a heartbreaking semifinal loss to the United States.

There's a growing campaign on the social media website, with the hashtag #SinclairForFlagBearer picking up steam. Among notable Canadians who have tweeted their support are women's hockey star Hayley Wickenheiser, British Columbia premier Christy Clark, broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi and Major League Soccer's Vancouver Whitecaps.

Canadian coach John Herdman believes she's the obvious choice.

"She's a special woman and I think Canada has been privileged to watch her play for these many years. I think there has been a bit of void in her career and that was filled (Thursday) night," Herdman said Friday.

"What a great time it would be for someone to lead Canada around. She's been a servant of this country for so many years, she's inspired so many kids. (Thursday) night, and particularly in the heartbreak against the United States, that's legendary stuff, that's unbelievable. All credit to her, she deserves everything she gets in life and hopefully she gets a flag to carry around."

The Canadian Olympic Committee will announce its decision ahead of Sunday's closing ceremony at Olympic Stadium.

There's an argument that a gold medallist should receive priority over an athlete who wins bronze, so Rosie MacLennan will be in the discussion. The trampolinist from King City, Ont., has captured Canada's lone gold medal thus far.

Her teammate Karen Cockburn was Canada's flag-bearer in the closing ceremony four years ago in Beijing after winning a silver medal.

Diver Emilie Heymans of St-Lambert, Que., is another possibility. Heymans became the first athlete in Canadian history to win a medal in four consecutive Olympics when she teamed up with Jennifer Abel to capture bronze in the three-metre synchronized event.

Wrestlers Carol Huynh and Tonya Verbeek will also be in the discussion. Huynh, from Hazelton, B.C., claimed her second Olympic medal, winning bronze in the 48-kilogram division. She won gold four years ago in Beijing.

Verbeek, a native of Beamsville, Ont., capped her wrestling career with a silver medal in the 55-kilogram weight class. She wrestled to silver in 2004 and bronze in 2008.

Kayaker Adam van Koeverden of Oakville, Ont., who raced to his fourth Olympic medal, winning silver in the men's K-1 1,000 metres, was Canada's flag-bearer in the closing ceremonies in 2004 in Athens. He said he still cherishes the privilege.

"I wanted to make it look good. I wanted to stiff-arm it. I wanted to look like I was in charge of carrying this thing. I just wanted to feel it in my guts," he said. "I am Canadian and I am carrying the flag for 35 million of us."

Van Koeverden said MacLennan should be the favourite to get Sunday's honours because she stands alone with a gold.

"Rosie is the first, the most obvious one because she's the only champ," he said. "Hats off to her. She kicked butt."

A strong performance by Catharine Pendrel in Saturday's mountain bike would put her in the mix. The native of Harvey Station, N.B., is the reigning world champion.

Sinclair, Canada's flag-bearer for the opening ceremonies of the Pan American Games last fall in Mexico, said she heard about the campaign to see her carry the flag in London.

"If it was to happen it would the hugest honour but I'd want my teammates there with me," she said.

The 29-year-old from Burnaby, B.C., set an Olympic record for goals scored in the tournament with six en route to leading Canada to its first medal in a traditional team sport since 1936.

The team quickly became the biggest Canadian story in London after their drama-filled 4-3 loss to the world No. 1-ranked United States that took 123 minutes to decide.

Sinclair and her teammates received their medals in front of a crowd of 80,203 fans at Wembley Stadium following the United States' gold-medal victory over Japan. It was the largest crowd for a women's soccer game in Olympic history.

"We came in (to the Games) wanting to see a Canadian flag rise as one of the three and it did," said Diana Matheson, whose goal in the 92nd minute lifted Canada to a 1-0 win over France for the bronze.

"The American song might have been playing but we were all watching that Canadian flag and it was amazing."

Two-time Olympic triathlon medallist Simon Whitfield carried Canada's flag into the opening ceremonies.

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