MOSCOW, June 13 (RIA Novosti)
World No. 1 tennis player Maria Sharapova will carry the Russian flag at the Olympic opening ceremony in London in August, she said Wednesday.
Carrying the flag is an honor traditionally reserved for an athlete who is considered outstanding or who is highly respected by others in the team.
“The Russian Olympic committee chose me to be the flag bearer at this year’s Olympic opening ceremony,” Sharapova said on her Facebook page.
“I am so honored, and especially excited as it will be my first Olympics in my career.”
She said she had been told during the French Open, which she later went on to win, becoming only the 10th woman in history to win all four Grand Slam titles.
“I have had to keep this hush-hush for two weeks and keeping secrets is not my best quality,” Sharapova said.
The Russian star accompanied the news with a picture of herself posing on Moscow’s Red Square in winter while wearing Russian national tennis team gear.
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said Tuesday that Sharapova was a candidate for the honor.
A decision had not been made and a wrestler could carry the flag in her place, he said.
Shamil Tarpishchev, head of the Russian Tennis Federation and a member of the National Olympic Committee, told R-Sport on Wednesday that he had told Sharapova she would carry the flag and it would not be fair to give the role to someone else.
The opening ceremony itself will last over three hours, and athletes spend a long time waiting before and after the event, so those competing the next day typically do not take part.
This year's opening ceremony will reportedly include 70 sheep and 10 chicken as part of a rural theme.
On Saturday, Sharapova won the French Open and became only the 10th female tennis player to complete a career Grand Slam.
She also regained the world No. 1 spot from Victoria Azarenka for the first time since a long injury layoff in 2008 and 2009 saw her drop out of the top 100.
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