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Rio Olympics 2016: Who will carry the NZ flag at closing ceremony?

By David Leggat

Lisa Carrington celebrates after winning gold in the women;s K1 200m event in Rio. Photosport
Lisa Carrington celebrates after winning gold in the women;s K1 200m event in Rio. Photosport

Confirmation that dazzling little gymnast Simone Biles will carry the United States' flag tomorrow morning (11am NZT) prompts the thought: who gets the gig for New Zealand?

The rider to all this is how much it really matters. It's a ceremonial duty and quickly forgotten.

It is less significant than the opening ceremony flagbearer, and how much even that means is a debatable topic in terms of what it means.

There's a view that it shows who is an unofficial leader of the New Zealand team; there's another that it's all a load of cobblers and is simply recognition of a fine athletic talent who has achieved much for his/her country, and now let's get on with things.

So who is in the running for the New Zealand honour?

The first thought is it must be a female athlete. They have provided 11 of New Zealand's 17 medals in Rio and the sole gold medallist among that group, paddler Lisa Carrington, who won gold and bronze in her K1 200m and 500m disciplines, must be the frontrunner.

After all it's only previously been done by an Olympic champion.

These have been the Games for the women and so discount shot putter Tom Walsh, good bloke and high achiever that he is, and other gold medallists, the old sweats Mahe Drysdale, has done flag duty before, and Hamish Bond and Eric Murray, champion achievers that they are.

49er sailors Peter Burling and Blair Tuke carried the flag at the opening ceremony.

So what about Lydia Ko, whose silver medal today was a fine return for a supremely gifted young woman who made it clear, when others were questioning golf's place at the Games, that this were her big target for the year, and for whom it's hard to find anyone with a disagreeable word? No complaints here.

Silver medallists in the 49erFX Alex Maloney and Molly Meech would be an admirable choice. Then again, that would mean two sailors had top and tailed the Games. One too many.

Not to forget canoe slalom silver medallist Luuka Jones, a three-time Olympian who won a fabulous reward for her perseverance; or trap shooter Natalie Rooney, who got New Zealand's Games off to a thrilling start on day two of competition. Two sports that rarely figure on the New Zealand sports radar too.

Or if chef de mission Rob Waddell, who makes the decision, wants to make a big nod to the future, it has to be Eliza McCartney, armed with her bubbly personality.

Her bronze medal in the pole vault, at only 19, gripped the sporting nation, was a super watch and has thrust McCartney into the top echelon of New Zealand athletes.

But bottom line, one of the women surely has to do the honours tomorrow. After that, take your pick.

- NZ Herald

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