Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Russ for flagbearer? It could happen

Former CFL Grey Cup-winner Jan Carinci is part of the New Brunswick lobby group attempting to get Russ Howard the Olympic flagbearer gig. The Canadian Olympic Committee will announce the elected athlete – plus two alternates – on Jan. 26 during a live news conference from both Calgary and Montreal.

Howard was originally thought to have no chance. However, the Toronto Star is reporting that some prominent Canadian Olympians have withdrawn their names from consideration. Included is Beckie Scott, the 2002 Olympian in cross-country skiing who won bronze but was then upgraded to silver and then again to gold almost two years later, due to Russian doping violations.

Scott is also an avowed anti-doping crusader and was the betting man's choice for the flagbearer's job. Now, Russ has a real shot at the flag. Pinerolo's curling event starts on Feb. 13, just a couple of days after the opening ceremony, but that's plenty of time for a seasoned veteran to overcome the alleged pressures of the flagbearer's task, and gear up for competition.

Memo to Mr. Carinci: good move talking up Russ' legacy, but it may help to mention that Russ is one of only two curlers in history to compete in all four Canadian Olympic Trials qualifiers (including the 1991 Brier, which served as the Trials qualifier for Albertville 1992). The second athlete? His brother, Glenn Howard.

Naturally, it's more than just sport. As Jackie DeSouza, COC director of communications, told the Calgary Herald:

They must be a role model for Canadians. It must be someone who relates through their personal behaviour the Olympic ideals and values. Really, we look at body of experience both inside and outside of sport. This is someone that we can hold up as someone that exemplifies the Olympic values.

If CBC TV cameras suddenly show up in Thunder Bay on Jan. 25, we'll know that curling has its first Canadian Olympic flagbearer. You see, Russ will be in northern Ontario watching his daughter Ashley Howard (second from bottom of photo) compete at the M&M Meat Shops Canadian Juniors, which start Saturday (finals on CBC Jan. 28 and 29).

• CBC has released the massive list of broadcast talent – including 13 decorated Olympians – working the upcoming Torino 2006 Olympic Games, and as expected, the team of Don Wittman, Joan McCusker and Mike Harris will handle curling. This for both the CBC main network and also TSN, but schedule info is still to come.

• CBC's Olympic website is also humming along with fresh, updated content and a new look. Their equally-impressive curling page is located here. Not to be outdone is the COC site, which is far too light on curling content but does have an interactive curling game front and centre on the home page. And finally, in terms of websites, CurlTV has enhanced its alliance with the Canadian Curling Association, as this newser describes.

• Some Wednesday notes... the Winnipeg Sun's Jim Bender has torn a strip off the World Curling Tour; five curlers from Lindsay, Ontario are aiming for a curling trip to Japan, but only seniors seem to be invited; and there are two Merklingers competing in next week's Ontario Scott provincial, plus another as coach, but none of them are named Anne. And none are representing their hometown of Ottawa. Confused? So are we. Joe explains...

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