This week, the Canadian Olympic Committee will announce from Parliament Hill who will carry the Maple Leaf into the opening ceremonies in Sochi next month.
Of course, Canada is blessed with a wealth of winter-sport talent and there are a number of excellent choices to bear the flag at the Games. But looking back on who's had the honour of leading the team into the stadium in the past, we can try and predict who might get the chance this time around.
The five most recent flag bearers at the opening ceremonies for Canada have been Clara Hughes, Danielle Goyette, Catriona Le May Doan, Jean-Luc Brassard and Kurt Browning. With the exception of Browning, who never did reach an Olympic podium, each of the athletes were gold medallists at the previous Winter Games. All of them also posted top-five finishes at the Olympics for which they were flag bearers.
So, if we are to use the criteria of selecting a reigning Olympic champion who still has medal potential, a number of candidates emerge.
First of all, let's eliminate Sidney Crosby, please. Yes, he might be our most iconic athlete overall. Yes, he provided the storybook ending to our home Olympics in 2010 with his overtime goal. Yes, he's the team captain this time around.
A men's hockey team captain acting as flag bearer wouldn't be unique in Sochi, as it's already been announced that Zdeno Chara will fly Slovakia's flag. But to me, NHL players aren't true Olympians in the sense that the Games are not their primary focus and goal. They do not spend their time thinking in quadrennials and kicking in their own cash to chase the podium.
Also, Sid's Penguins play the New York Rangers on the day of the opening ceremonies. Moving on...
It's worth noting that a number of people making a case for Larisa Yurkiw to carry the flag. Hers is a great story, having been dropped from the national alpine team roster in the offseason but earning an Olympic nomination anyway via her results. I'd fully support Yurkiw being selected as a flag bearer but think it's unlikely she'd be picked. Athletes with great stories or those who have overcome obstacles are generally flag bearers at closing ceremonies, too — think Joannie Rochette in 2010 or Jamie Salé and David Pelletier in 2002.
I think it comes down to four athletes — mogul skier Alex Bilodeau, speed skater Charles Hamelin, bobsleigh pilot Kaillie Humphries and the Sea to Sky's own Maëlle Ricker.
All four of these athletes have continued to be successful since capturing gold at the 2010 Games, winning at least one world championship title since the last Olympics.
Bilodeau's gold in 2010 was captivating, not to mention our first ever won on Canadian soil. Ricker's gold was also the first won at home by a Canadian female and she'll be headed to her fourth Olympics with great medal potential.