Flag on the play

Beckie Scott won her Olympic gold medal by an inch.

Following a lifetime of sacrifice and preparation, her ability to find that inch turned her into a household name and Canadian hero.

Few can relate to how she did it but it's safe to say there isn't a Canadian alive who doesn't hope she gets every opportunity to summon that strength once again in Turin.

Everyone, that is, except Don Cherry.

Clearly unable to comprehend the level of competition and dedication involved in individual events, the brash broadcaster exhibited stunning ignorance yesterday by saying the list of high profile Olympians who omitted their names from possible flag bearer duties for the opening ceremony don't care about Canada.

"That nonsense about getting prepared -- how long does it take? A little walk around," Cherry told CBC Newsworld.

"Come out and say you don't care... but don't say, 'it will upset my performance.' That's ridiculous. They're asking the wrong people. There's lots of people, I'm sure, who'd love to carry the flag in."

Of course they would but at what cost?

Now, more than ever, with Canada in line to break records for Winter Games medals, Canucks are focused more on winning than just savouring the experience.

For athletes like Scott, Pierre Lueders or any other marquee name who will be housed two to three hours away in Sestriere, it would be a grueling exercise at a time when rest and comfort is key. Especially for those competing hours or days later like Scott.

"A lot of athletes staying in the mountains are being told it'll be a 12-hour turnaround," explained CODA communications manager Chris Dornan of the opening show.

"It'll be two to three hours to get into Turin; they'll then stage for three hours; they'll move into a waiting zone before the four hour ceremony and then back to Sestriere.

"The athlete wouldn't get back until three or four in the morning, which is like staying up all night."

No big deal for a career minor hockey leaguer like Cherry, who spent such regular commutes polishing off road pops with bloated teammates unable to step up to the NHL.

However, for today's world class athletes, making sacrifices like the ones Scott and other medal hopefuls will make Feb. 10 is what got them to where they are -- on a Canadian team expected to finish third amongst all nations with at least 25 medals.

If not, they'll be the first ones to shoulder blame for "choking" or failing to live up to expectations. All so they can carry a flag?

Every minute Scott, Clara Hughes, Cindy Klassen, Thomas Grandi, Erik Guay or any other medal hopeful can conserve energy and time while allowing them that extra preparation and focus might give them the inch Scott found in Salt Lake City.

Nagano flag-bearer Jean-Luc Brassard has long said his inability to win a medal in 1998 stemmed not from a flag jinx but the lost training time attributed to the flag flap.

COC CEO Chris Rudge, who will unveil the team and its flag bearer in Calgary next Thursday, said he supports all performance-based decisions of his athletes, as he should.

With a team this deep, a willing and deserving flag-bearer will be selected from the nominees.

Honoured and proud to wear the maple leaf at all times, our Olympians haven't spent a lifetime of dedication aimed at marching in with our flag -- they're focused on marching out with medals.

The goal is to celebrate a record haul of medals, not simply the opening of another Olympic Games.

Cherry, of all people, should know that.