Mon, November 18, 2013

Whitfield to carry flag for Canada

By TIM BAINES. QMI Agency



Whitfield a worthy flag-bearer
 

OTTAWA - Simon Whitfield stood wrapped in the Canadian flag in front of the eternal flame on Parliament Hill, knowing that in 15 days he will lead a procession of hopes and dreams into the Olympic Stadium in London.

Named Canada's flagbearer, the 37-year-old Whitfield is certainly deserving of the honour. A three-time Olympian, he's won gold and silver medals in triathlon.

"I'm overwhelmed right now," said Whitfield. "I think of all the incredible, deserving flagbearers. This is an incredible honour.

Whitfield found out he would be the flagbearer a week ago when he got a call from one of his childhood idols, Mark Tewksbury, Canada's chef de mission for the Games.

"I have vivid memories of (Tewksbury) leaning on a lane rope, celebrating his gold medal (in the 100-m backstroke at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona)," said Whitfield. "I was overwhelmed when I got the call. And when I get overwhelmed, I go for a run.

"There was no better place to run to than the Terry Fox statue in Vancouver. Terry is the epitome of the Olympic athlete - spirit, courage and toughness."

On his run, while listening to east coast rockers Hey Rosetta! through his headphones, Whitfield thought of other Canadian athletes who have worked so hard for their Olympic moments - boxer Mary Spencer, gymnast Karen Cockburn, divers Alexander Despatie and Emilie Heymans, soccer player Christine Sinclair ("what a champion"), the men's rowers, equestrian Ian Millar ("who I'm going to call Sir, with all due respect ... 10 Olympics, incredible") ... on and on.

Said Whitfield: "And when I got to the statue, I high-fived Terry, and I said: 'Comment ca va, champion, eh?"

The Canadian Olympians will fall back on words like "unbreakable, relentless and world-class."

And into the stadium on July 27, 277 Canadian athletes will march proudly. That guy leading the way, the guy whose journey started in small triathlon events in the Kingston area, that'll be Simon Whitfield - proud Canadian.

Tim.baines@sunmedia.ca