Kelowna's Hickling flag bearer for Canada
Kelowna's Garett Hickling, a five-time Paralympian and three-time Paralympic medallist, has been named opening ceremony flag bearer for Team Canada at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
One of the top wheelchair rugby players in the world, Hickling was tournament MVP at the first three world championships held in the sport and has competed in every Paralympics that wheelchair rugby has been included in—since 1996.
"I'm very, very, surprised," said Hickling, who found out Saturday via Skype, surrounded by his teammates. "This wasn't something I had even thought of or considered. I'm just ecstatic being able to play in the Paralympics, and to be able to do something like this is just phenomenal. I don't know if I'm still in a daze or a dream. I probably will be smiling ear to ear and just try to hold that flag up high and represent Canada as best I can."
Born in Mica Creek, Hickling lived most of his life in Kelowna.
He recently moved to Dorchester, Ont. to train with teammate David Willsie. While there, he developed a love of coaching and was instrumental in starting a new team in Toronto. Hickling is a quiet leader of Team Canada and his experience will be key in the team's quest for gold.
Selection criteria for the opening ceremony flag bearer require that the athlete exhibit a commitment to fair play; be respected as a role model by other athletes; and maintain an exemplary standard of behaviour and have made a contribution to Paralympic sport and the sporting community.
"Garett exemplifies all these qualities and more," said Chef de Mission Gaetan Tardif. "He is one of the most feared athletes in the sport, yet also exceptionally humble. He is respected by athletes throughout Canada and the world. I know our Canadian Team will be proud to follow Garett into the Opening Ceremony on Wednesday."
Canada has a total of 145 athletes competing in 15 sports at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, from Aug. 29 to Sept. 9.