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The Mentalist

Series 6, Episode 1 The Desert Rose 29 Jul 14 00:40:07

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Mark Todd best bet for NZ flagbearer

Published: 6:48AM Sunday April 22, 2012 Source: Fairfax

Equestrian icon Mark Todd is emerging as the frontrunner to be New Zealand's flagbearer at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games.

Leading Olympic medal hopefuls Valerie Adams and Mahe Drysdale are both out of the running for the London honour.

Supreme medal hope and obvious first choice Adams will not be on British soil until the second week of the Games in order to fully prepare the defence of her shot put title.

World champion rower Drysdale, who carried the flag four years ago in Beijing and fell ill en route to bronze, has now distanced himself from the role because he is due to race early on the morning after the ceremony - which runs deep into the night.

"I'd love to do it again but with the circumstances in London I just don't see it as a possibility," Drysdale told Fairfax.

"If we were racing in the afternoon [as in Beijing] possibly I would consider it, but we're racing in the morning.

"The village is probably an hour-and-a-half away from where we're rowing. By the time you have that late night and get down to the lake at 6am for a pre-row you're really pushing yourself."

Although there are a number of Kiwi medal hopes for London, the team is light when it comes to the flagbearer criteria needed by New Zealand team chef de mission Dave Currie - namely, previous Olympic success.

When contacted yesterday, Currie initially said nobody had been ruled out.

But he acknowledged what Adams had said at her final pre-Olympic press conference in Auckland weeks ago.

"That's the position she had when she left, that may or may not be her view subsequently," he said.

"As it was in Beijing, he [Drysdale] rows the day after the opening ceremony so the schedule is similar in London. He wouldn't be precluded, from my point of view."

But Drysdale's point of view is clearly different. And, with Adams highly unlikely to have changed a major detail of her Olympic masterplan, Todd remains considerably the most qualified option available, and again a solid medal shot, ahead of the likes of silver medallists Nick Willis (athletics) and Bevan Docherty (triathlon).

One of the the most successful sportspeople New Zealand has ever produced, a four-time Olympic medallist, including two golds over five previous campaigns, 56-year-old Todd also presents Currie and the NZOC with the chance to bestow a rare, and PR-friendly, honour.

After carrying the flag at the 1992 Games in Barcelona, Todd would become only the third person in New Zealand Olympic history to carry the flag twice, after Les Mills and Arthur Porritt.

From his home in Berkshire, England, yesterday, Todd said he had planned to skip the opening ceremony because, like Drysdale, he is competing the following morning.

However, the eldest member of the 2012 Olympic team - and second-oldest Kiwi Olympian ever - said he would consider changing his plans if called upon by Currie.

"I probably wouldn't be going to the opening ceremony, I compete the following morning. But if I was asked I think I'd be able to do it. It's a big honour.

"We'll have to wait and see if he [Currie] calls me."

Currie admitted Todd ticked all of the boxes and said there was nothing to stop anyone carrying the flag twice.

"Mark's certainly a contender ... he has been successful before and is in a position to do well again."

Currie said the tradition of officially naming the athlete on the day of the opening ceremony would continue, but he added that finding flagbearers had become increasingly difficult in an age when high-performance athletes calculated their preparation to the finest of details.

"Of all the things I get to do as chef de mission, one of the things I most enjoy is asking someone to do this job. It's a wonderful moment."

The flagbearer contenders

Mark Todd

Previous Games: 1984, 1988, 1992, 2000, 2008

Olympic Medals: Gold (1984, 1988), bronze (1988, 2000)

Ryan Nelsen

Previous Games: 2008

Olympic Medals: None

Eric Murray and Hamish Bond

Previous Games: Murray: 2004, 2008; Bond: 2008

Olympic Medals: None

Andrew Nicholson

Previous Games: 1984, 1992, 1996, 2004, 2008

Olympic Medals: Silver (1992), bronze (1996)

Bevan Docherty

Previous Games: 2004, 2008

Olympic Medals: Silver (2004), bronze (2008)

Alison Shanks

Previous Games: 2008

Olympic Medals: None

Ben Fuohy

Previous Games: 2004, 2008

Olympic Medals: Silver (2004)

Nick Willis

Previous Games: 2004, 2008

Olympic Medals: Silver (2008)

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