Aussie Olympic boss resists pressure to pick a flag bearer ‘chick’
Gender will play no part in Australia’s choice of Olympic flag bearer. Twenty years have elapsed since a female last carried out the ceremonial honour, and history-making beach volleyballer Natalie Cook has upped the ante by declaring in jest she will protest if Australia’s London team boss doesn’t pick a “chick”.
GENDER will play no part in Australia’s choice of Olympic flag bearer.
Twenty years have elapsed since a female last carried out the ceremonial honour, and history-making beach volleyballer Natalie Cook has upped the ante by declaring in jest she will protest if Australia’s London team boss doesn’t pick a “chick”.
But chef de mission Nick Green is having none of it.
“Our flag bearer will be the best person to represent this country, as simple as that,” Green said on Sunday as Cook sat beside him at a media conference.
Green, who will announce his decision on Games eve this Thursday, revealed his short list included both genders.
He also indicated longevity could be a factor shaping his choice, which might lower the odds on his “great friend” Cook.
She is the first female to represent Australia at five summer Games, although shooters Michael Diamond and Russell Mark are at their sixth Olympics and equestrian Andrew Hoy is riding in a record-breaking seventh.
But apart from that, Green said only that the “values of Olympism” were guiding his thoughts.
“I’ve got to get it right,” he said.
“The flag bearer is the symbolic head of our team.
“My decision potentially has the capacity to influence and affect someone’s life.”
Longevity could influence his search for the right leader, he said. “It could also include the way they conduct themselves on and off the field. A whole lot of things go into the final outcome.”
“I’m not generally a tick-the-box type of guy,” said the former rowing great, adding that he and Cook had enjoyed “a good chuckle” over her comments.
Cook, 37, a gold medallist at the Sydney 2000 Games, said this week the choice of a female should be a “no brainer”.
“If there’s a male that carries the flag I will sit in protest,” she joked.
“No pressure on Nick but from my point of view it has to be a woman. Go the chicks.”
Cook, who also won bronze in Atlanta in 1996, admitted she was so keen to carry the Australian flag she had been practising “just in case”.
“I’ve been dreaming about it and the wave to the royal box,” she said.
“I’d love the honour of leading the team out, but for me as long as it’s a female.”
Cook has walked behind four men in her Olympic career: Andrew Hoy, basketballer Andrew Gaze, sailor Colin Beashel and rower James Tomkins.
The last woman to lead the Aussie team out was four-time Olympic diver Jenny Donnet at Barcelona in 1992.
However, women have a greater presence at the head of winter Olympic teams, with Torah bright, Alisa Camplin and Kirstie Marshall carrying the flag at three of the past five winter Games.
“I note that history absolutely,” said Green in reference to the 20 year gap for Australian women at the summer Games.
Swimming veteran Leisel Jones is another female who has figured in the London flag bearer guessing game, although swimmers and rowers are generally thought to have less chance because their events are held early and they tend to rest rather than march. Tomkins happily changed his plans, however, when he was selected.
As Australia’s presence in London increased with the arrival on Sunday of the swim team, divers, rowers and weightlifters, pole vaulter Steve Hooker lifted spirits by jumping 5.72 metres in a pre-Olympic competition.
It was a good way short of the 5.96m he leapt to win gold in Beijing, but as Green said: “It shows he is building his confidence slowly. He is an Olympic champion and he will rise to the occasion.”
World champion gymnast Lauren Mitchell, meanwhile, was preparing to celebrate her 21st birthday on Monday, by “knuckling down” to two training sessions. The cake will have to wait. – AAP