VANCOUVER, B.C. – Hockey Canada announced on Monday that Jean Labonté, captain of Canada’s National Sledge Team, has been named Canada’s flag bearer for the Opening Ceremony of the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games.
Labonté will lead a team of 53 athletes into B.C. Place Stadium on Friday during the Opening Ceremony for the 2010 Games, which start on Saturday, March 13. Labonté will try to lead Canada’s National Sledge Team to its second-consecutive gold medal at the Paralympic Winter Games.
“I’m honoured to be chosen as Canada’s flag bearer for what will be an amazing Paralympic Winter Games,” says Labonté, who only found out about the decision on Monday at a Canadian Paralympic Committee press conference. “We hope to make Canadians proud from coast to coast to coast when the Games begin on March 13.”
Labonté has been the National Sledge Team’s captain since the 2007-08 season and has led his team to gold medals at the 2009 IPC Sledge Hockey World Championship and 2008 World Sledge Hockey Challenge. The 2010 Paralympic Winter Games will be Labonté’s fourth Games. He helped Canada win gold at the 2006 Paralympics in Turin, Italy.
Labonté was named most valuable player of the sledge team in 20 and received the National Sledge Team Coaches Award in 2003, 20. He has been a member of Canada’s National Sledge Team since 1996.
“Jean Labonté is a great choice to be Canada’s flag bearer at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games,” says Bob Nicholson, president and CEO of Hockey Canada. “Jean is a true leader on and off the ice and a great role model for young athletes. We know he will do Canada proud as he leads Team Canada into B.C. Place Stadium on Friday night.”
This is the second-consecutive time that an athlete from Canada’s National Sledge Team has carried Canada’s flag for the Opening Ceremony of the Paralympic Winter Games. Todd Nicholson, who will also compete at these Games, was Canada’s flag bearer for the 2006 Paralympics in Turin, Italy.
Canada’s National Sledge Team will face the Czech Republic on Tuesday, March 9 in exhibition action. Then, on Saturday, March 13, Canada faces Italy to start the sledge hockey tournament at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games.