Flyin' the flag

Now, says Pierre Lueders, he'd consider carrying the flag.

But he has a better idea.

"They should make Lascelles the flagbearer.''

Brakeman Lascelles Brown, about two hours earlier, had been notified he'd been granted Canadian citizenship and would be able to join Lueders in his sled for the Olympics. One minute he becomes a Canadian, the next Lueders has him up for flagbearer?

Lueders was one of Canada's athletes who said no to carrying the flag at the opening ceremonies. Unlike the others who said no, Lueders' problem wasn't that he was competing the first weekend.

"I didn't think it would be appropriate if Lascelles Brown wasn't with us. I'd feel like a hypocrite if he was sitting at home watching on TV and I was marching in with the flag.

"I'd be interested now. But I have a better candidate. He's here in this room with me right now,'' he said of Brown, who was passing the phone back and forth with Lueders in a small hotel room in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

"This is a great day for Lascelles. It's a great day for Canada. Lascelles is a Canadian. He's a world champion. What more can you ask? There's no better way to welcome someone to Canada. He'll be oathing over here. I don't think there's an athlete going to Torino more proud to be a Canadian, I'll tell you that.''

It was hard to tell who was happiest, the Jamaican bobsledder who is Canada's newest citizen or the old Canadian who sits in the sled in front of him.

"It feels great. I've always considered myself a Canadian competing for Canada,'' said Brown, a member of the Jamaican bobsleigh team at the Salt Lake Olympics who won the two-man world championship with Lueders last year and heads into this weekend of competition in St. Moritz coming off Lueders's first two-man/four-man double gold weekend ever in Europe.

"I have to say thanks to all the Canadians who made this happen,'' said Brown, who was 300-and-some days short of the 1,095-day residency rule. Over 100 of those days which didn't count because he was away competing for Canada.

"When the minister called and introduced himself I said 'Yes!' '' said Brown. "The minister! He made my day, my month, my year ... I just smile - I just keep laughing.

"I had to go to Pierre's room. My room is too small for me. I can tell you right now I don't know if I can sleep tonight.''

Brown's wife was on the conference call with her husband from home in Calgary.

"If you knew my husband, you know he's not a very emotional man. He doesn't get excited by much. But I can hear his excitement. This makes a huge difference in our lives,'' said his wife, a Canadian citizen - as is their child.

"This last month has seemed like three years. It seemed like it was right there and we could touch it. And then nothing and nothing and nothing ...''

Lueders said there was no room in the hotel big enough for Brown's smile.

"It's pretty hard to put today into words. To see the smile this guy has on his face ... It's something none of us who were born in Canada will ever experience. It's unbelievable.''

Lueders said they hope to pay Canada off for giving Brown his citizenship.

"Had Lascelles not been on our team our chances of doing anything result-wise were very slim.''

Brown said it was a huge distraction.

"I kept saying I don't want to think about it but deep down I think it was a distraction.''

What took so long?

Lawyer Peter Wong said it was identifying how it had to get done.

"It required a special kind of application and cabinet approval. Once identified it did not take long. It was very fast. But to get to that point ... it wasn't happening. The government itself needed to do this, not just normal citizenship.''

The turning point was New Year's Day.

"An event happened Jan. 1. I'll just leave it at that. It was an event that gave me hope. One thing I've learned is that our system in Canada can work. If people want to get it done for the best interest in their hearts for Canada and a group of athletes, it can get done.''