After losing the captaincy for the Canadian women’s hockey team, Hayley Wickenheiser was awarded an even bigger honour today. The five-time Olympian, and three-time Gold medallist, was named flagbearer for the opening ceremonies at the Sochi games. The move comes as a surprise as downhill skier Erik Guay, short track speed skater Charles Hamlin and moguls skier Alexandre Bilodeau, the first man to win a gold medal on Canadian soil, were considered the favourites for the position. This is just the latest honour for a surefire hall-of-famer that many consider to be the greatest female hockey player of all time.
Wickenheiser made her Olympic debut, along with the female side of ice hockey, at the 1998 games in Nagano, Japan winning a silver medal. Since then, Canada has won three straight Gold Medals in Salt Lake, Torino and Vancouver respectively. An incredible athlete, Wickenheiser also represented the Canadian softball team at the 2000 Summer Olympics. On top of her Olympic honours, Wickenheiser has seven World Championship Gold Medals and ten at the 4 nations cup. She is the longest serving female hockey player in Canadian history.
Wickenheiser has long been a dominant force up the middle for Team Canada, and one of the key players leading to their success in the women’s game. Wickenheiser even tried her hand at playing against men for a Finnish professional squad several years ago.
The announcement will be made today on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, continuing to convey the significance the games have in Canadian culture. The event can be watched through live streams provided by several Canadian media outlets. The opening ceremony for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic games is Friday, February 27th. Canada will attempt to defend its crown, after winning a record number of Gold Medals at home during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
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Main photo credit: _becaro_ via photopin cc