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Roger Federer forgoes opportunity to carry Swiss flag a third time

The 17-time Grand Slam singles champion, who carried the flag for Switzerland in Beijing and Athens, says it is important to give someone else a chance. Federer's doubles partner, Stan Wawrinka, was chosen.

July 27, 2012|From Staff Reports

LONDON — Roger Federer's uncanny instinct of doing the right thing at the right time is not limited to the court.

The 17-time Grand Slam singles champion thought seriously about the honor of carrying the flag for Switzerland during the opening ceremony Friday night at the Olympics. He did it twice before, in Beijing four years ago and in Athens in 2004.

And that's why he decided not to do it again.

"It would have been amazing," he said Thursday at a news conference. "And there's no denying that I would have loved to do it. I just felt it was important to give someone else a chance, particularly in Switzerland. We do believe other people should also have chances. That's why I told Swiss Olympic [officials] I think they should choose someone else.

"They then chose my [doubles] partner, Stan Wawrinka, and I think it's a great, great honor for him. Because I could not have won Olympic gold without him." They won the doubles gold in Beijing, defeating Swedes Thomas Johansson and Simon Aspelin, in the final.

— Lisa Dillman

Shooting questions

The question was inevitable. This was a news conference for a group of people who shoot guns. Could the people at the head table comment on the recent shootings in Aurora, Colo.?

These were members of the U.S. Olympic shooting team. All handled the question with proper empathy for the victims and families. Then several tried their best to bring logic to an emotional subject.

"Ours is one of the safest sports ever," said Vincent Hancock, a gold medalist in Beijing. "There are more injuries in table tennis."

The team members were expecting this line of inquiry.

Said Kim Rhode of El Monte, an Olympic medalist in each of the last four Games: "We knew we would get questioned about this. Our sport is a sport. It is sad that we get generalized like this."

Two other former medalists addressed the sport of shooting and the shooting in Aurora.

Matt Emmons, a gold medalist in 2004, said: "Our sport has some of the most respectful, gentle people in the world."

Emil Milev, a silver medalist in 1996, said: "For me, this is not a person. He would do harm, even if he could not find a firearm."

— Bill Dwyre

Second chance

No one on the U.S. women's Olympic wrestling team appreciates the power of second chances quite like Ali Bernard.

Bernard, 26, was convinced her competitive career was over following a lackluster performance at the trials in April. After failing to secure a place on the American squad — a spot she earned for the United States with her third-place finish at the world championships in 2011 — she began thinking about the next phase of her life.

"It was rough thinking that was going to be my last competition," she said.

Bernard returned home to New Ulm, Minn., and began filling out job applications. As the runner-up at the trials, she knew she had a responsibility to continue training and keep her weight within a reasonable range.

Less than two weeks later, U.S. women's wrestling Coach Terry Steiner called and asked her to come to Colorado Springs for training as soon as possible. There was a problem with trials champion Stephany Lee'sdrug test and it was likely Bernard would be named to the team.

Bernard, who was sworn to secrecy about Lee's problematic sample, returned to Colorado, but she did not hold out much hope for an Olympic berth. "I don't think she allowed herself to believe it," Steiner said. "She didn't want to be heartbroken again."

About six weeks after the trials, Lee's second sample tested positive for tetrahydrocannabinol acid, a marijuana metabolite, according to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Lee — who also tested positive for marijuana in 2009 — subsequently forfeited her spot on the Olympic team and accepted a one-year ban.

And Bernard, who finished fifth in the 158.5-pound (72kg) class at the Beijing Games, was headed to London.

"I think that she is meant to be here," Steiner said. "This happened for a reason."

Political fallout

It did not take long for USOC officials to express their displeasure over a new political ad that makes use of Olympic scenes and imagery.

The television spot, produced by a "super PAC" supporting President Obama, includes footage of Mitt Romney presiding over the opening ceremony of the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, where he led the organizing committee.

A narrator comments on countries where Romney sheltered money and places where Bain Capital — he served as the company's chief executive — reportedly moved jobs. These comments are interspersed with footage of the respective countries marching in the "Parade of Nations" at the Games.

"He sure knows how to go for the gold ... for himself," the narrator concludes.

USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said in a statement Thursday: "While we are absolutely confident that neither presidential candidate participated in the production or distribution of these negative ads, the attacks, using Olympic themes and images, need to stop."

The committee further criticized the timing of the ads, which appeared on the Internet so close to Friday's opening ceremony of the London Olympics.

"For anything even remotely negative to be associated with that time-honored, inspirational moment would be extremely unfortunate," Sandusky said.

The ad was pulled from most sites Thursday.

— David Wharton

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