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Choose Your American Flag Bearer

So one question that will be answered in the next day will be one that will resonate with viewers of Friday's Opening Ceremonies. That is: Who will carry the flag and lead the U.S. team into National Stadium (a.k.a. "The Bird's Nest")?

According to Keith Bryant of the United States Olympic Committee, the flag bearer is chosen through a somewhat elaborate voting system. Each individual U.S. team selects a captain or representative that they send to the voting process. That captain is responsible for gathering what his or her team's vote is. The group then meets in person Wednesday night, Beijing time, and discusses all the nominees. A vote is taken, and the result will likely be announced Wednesday night here (Wednesday morning back home).

A few of us sat down this morning and hashed out potential candidates. We came up with six (listed after the jump in alphabetical order). Please feel free to lodge your support for one of them in the comments section - or pick someone we might have overlooked.

Jennie Finch, softball - The face of the juggernaut U.S. team - which will appear in its last Olympics as softball is being eliminated from the program - pitched the Americans to a perfect record and a gold medal in 2004. Now, she returns for a swan song that could yield the same result. No telling how voters will react to the sport's departure from the Olympics - or to Finch's newfound motherhood. Son Ace was born since gold in Athens.

Cheryl Hayworth, weightlifting - The 25-year-old from Savannah, Ga., is in her third Olympics, hoping to improve on her sixth-place showing in Athens in the 75-kilogram classification. She won bronze as a teenager in 2000 in Sydney, and now is the veteran on the American team - and its best chance for a medal in her sport.

Bernard Lagat, track - Would the American team choose a runner born in Kenya? Perhaps. Lagat - who won silver in the 1,500 meters in Athens and bronze in Sydney - has become a featured member of the U.S. team, for which he was cleared to run last year. He was a double champion in the 1,500 and 5,000 at last year's world championships, and could be a double medalist here.

Lopez Lomong, track - This idea might fit the American spirit - have the Lost Boy from Sudan, who came to the United States in 2001 and became a citizen last year. The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Lomong was lobbying his teammates to be nominated.

Steve Lopez, taekwando - The veteran and two-time gold medalist (2004 welterweight, 2000 featherweight) could engender support from representatives of more obscure sports. The leading member of the America's most prominent taekwando family, Lopez is a serious candidate for his third gold medal.

Sheila Taormina, modern pentathlon - Not familiar with the 39-year-old Michigander from her pentathlon accomplishments? Think back to 2004 and 2000, when she competed in the triathlon (she even finished sixth in Sydney). Still not ringing a bell? Go back to 1996, when she was a 27-year-old swimmer - and a member of the gold-medal winning 4x200-meter freestyle relay team. Such versatility -- she is the first woman to compete in three different sports -- and perseverance could win votes.

Dara Torres, swimming - It would be an NBC moment if the 41-year-old Torres carried the flag. She's in her fifth Olympics - 24 years after her first. She could add to her total of nine medals. She has a 2-year-old daughter, Tessa. As if her story needed more drama, her coach, Michael Lohberg, recently came down with a rare blood disease, for which the prognosis is dire. Torres could win gold in the 50-meter freestyle and the 4x100-meter relay. If she does, she might provide some of the lasting images of these Games.

Have a preference? Name it below.

By Barry Svrluga  |  August 5, 2008; 5:11 AM ET
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Dara Torres... longevity should win the right to carry our flag

Posted by: JP | August 13, 2008 11:16 AM | Report abuse

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