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Toby the Torch Bearer ready to go!
ALPINE SKIER Toby Kane will carry the Australian flag for a second time in tonight’s Vancouver Opening Ceremony and that brings him level with one of the legends in Australian alpine sport – Michael Milton.
Kane carried the flag at the Torino Closing Ceremony and is on duty again at Vancouver’s BC Place stadium tonight, in this just his second Paralympics.Milton competed in five Winter Paralympics collecting 11 medals, including six gold.
He carried the flag at the Opening Ceremonies in both Salt Lake City in 2002 and in Turin in 2006.Milton would have carried it a third time – the closing ceremony in Torino – because the Australian Paralympic Committee wanted to recognise his contribution as he was retiring from alpine competition at the end of the 2006 Games.
He asked for the honour to be given to Kane as the ``next generation’’ in Australian Winter sports. Milton (silver in downhill) and Kane (bronze in Super-G) were Australia’s only medallists in 2006. Ironically, Kane almost passed on the honour in Vancouver to somebody else because he was concerned the four-hour return bus ride from Whistler to Vancouver could impact on his sleep with the first alpine medal event – Downhill – scheduled the next day.
On the day he was named flag bearer, he had not been confirmed as one of the three entrants in downhill.``But they (team officials) assure me I can leave on an early bus returning other athletes like me that have to compete the next day,’’ Kane said.``So I’ve thought about it and I’m confident I can do both.’’
The parade of nations, which will involve a record 505 athletes from 44 countries, is scheduled for early in the Opening Ceremony program. The adverse weather over the past 48 hours on the Whistler Creekside course, including heavy snow and fog, means four members of the Australian alpine team were not able to complete their practise runs over the past two days.
``So I haven’t had too much physical exertion the last two days. But in saying that, even waiting around is exhausting and I do feel a bit tired.’’
A total of 193 athletes from 36 countries in the alpine events here make it the most competitive of all the five Winter Paralympic sports.Australia has enjoyed a top-10 result on the alpine medal table in four of the five past Games with its best result being nine medals in Lillehammer.