By Tom Degun at the Paralympic Village in London

Gareth Hickling_in_Team_Canada_kitAugust 26 - Wheelchair rugby star Garett Hickling, a five-time Paralympian and three-time medallist, has been named Canada's flag bearer for the London 2012 Opening Ceremony at a special Team Canada event here.

The 41-year-old from Mica Creek, who was left in a wheelchair following a horrific 300 metre fall off a cliff in Kelowna in 1987, took up the sport as part of his rehabilitation and has since become one of the greatest players in the world.

He was astonishingly named as the Most Valuable Player (MVP) at the first three World Championships held in the sport dubbed "murder ball" and has competed in every Paralympics that wheelchair rugby has been included in since it made its debut on the programme at Atlanta in 1996.

Hickling revealed at the special reception here that he found out the news from the Team Canada leadership delegation last night via Skype and he will now take centre stage at the Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium on Wednesday (August 29).

"I'm very, very, surprised," Hickling (pictured below) told a large gathering that featured the majority of his London 2012 Team Canada teammates.

"This wasn't something I had even thought of or considered.

"I'm just ecstatic being able to play in the Paralympics and to be able to do something like this is just phenomenal.

"I don't know if I'm still in a daze or a dream.

"I probably will be smiling ear to ear and just try to hold that flag up high and represent Canada as best I can."

Gareth Hickling_in_action
Team Canada Chef de Mission Gaetan Tardif (pictured below) said the selection criteria for Canada's Opening Ceremony flag bearer required the athlete to exhibit a commitment to fair play, be respected as a role model by other athletes and have an exemplary standard of behaviour.

"Garett exemplifies all these qualities and more," he said.

"He is one of the most feared athletes in the sport, yet also exceptionally humble.

"He is respected by athletes throughout Canada and the world.

"I know our Canadian Team will be proud to follow Garett into the Opening Ceremony on Wednesday."

Gaetan Tardif__at_London_2012_flag_raising_ceremony_August_26_2012
The flag bearer announcement came before the team was treated to a show of eclectic song and dance performances at the official Team Welcome Ceremony in the Paralympic Village Plaza.

Canada has a total of 145 athletes competing in 15 sports at London 2012 and they will be aiming for an improvement on their performance at Beijing four years ago where they finished seventh place with 50 medals, 19 of which were gold.

The standout performer was wheelchair racing legend Chantal Petitclerc, who won five gold medals in the T54 class before retiring from the sport with an overall medal haul of 21 medals, 14 of which are gold.

The 42-year-old from Quebec is currently working as a mentor for the ParalympicsGB athletics team.

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