Triathlete Simon Whitfield was named today to lead the Canadian team into London’s Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony on July 27.
The Canadian Olympic Committee announced the honor had been bestowed upon the 37-year-old four-time Olympian at a press conference in Ottawa at Parliament Hill.
Canadian Olympic Committee chef de mission Mark Tewksbury delivered the news to a crowd of newsmen, politicos and, presumably, some triathlon fans.
The Canadian Broadcasting Company reported that Whitfield told Tewksbury that the news was "overwhelming."
In a Canadian Olympic Committee media release distributed today, Whitfield offered his thoughts on the honor:
"Once I got over the shock of how cool it was that Mark called, my thoughts turned to all of the incredibly talented Canadian athletes on this team. It's an honor 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, who lives in Victoria, British Columbia, won gold at the inaugural Olympic men’s triathlon in Sydney, finished 11th at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and launched an exciting finishing kick to take the silver medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Whitfield has won 14 World Cup races, took gold at the 2002 Commonwealth Games and won the $200,000 top prize in a memorable sprint finish at the Hy-Vee World Cup in 2009.
According to ITU Secretary General Loreen Barnett, no other triathlete has served as his or her country’s flag bearer at the Olympic opening ceremonies.
Whitfield, who won one of his country’s four gold medals at the 2000 Summer Olympics, did carry his nation’s flag at the closing ceremonies in Sydney.
According to Barnett, Whitfield is one of only three triathletes – including Hunter Kemper of the United States and Anja Dittmer of Germany -- to qualify for all four Olympic triathlon teams during the sport’s inclusion in the Games.
Going into the 2012 Olympics, 2 women and 11 men had previously raced in all 3 Olympic Triathlons.