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Should a woman carry the flag for Australia?

Should a woman carry the flag for Australia?

Leisel Jones, the first Australian swimmer to take part in four Olympics could hold the flag at the opening ceremony

The debate over who will lead the Australian team in the Olympic opening ceremony in London this Friday is heating up as athletes and flag bearing hopefuls demand a female be given the honour.

The last time our Olympians followed a woman into the opening ceremony stadium was in 1992 when four-time Olympian diver Jenny Donnet held the flag.

Donnet is of one only three Australian female athletes who have been selected to carry the flag, the others being Raelene Boyle (1976) and Denise Boyd (1980). Every other flag bearer since 1920 has been male.

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The choice of who has the honour of leading the team into the Olympics is supposed to reflect the best person to represent the nation’s athletes, but historically, our female athletes have outperformed the men.

Of Australia’s top five Olympic medal winners, four of them are women. Ian Thorpe is the only man, followed by Dawn Fraser, Leisel Jones, Petria Thomas, and Susie O’Neill.

One of Australia’s Olympic legends, hockey super-coach and silver medal winner Ric Charlesworth was the flag-bearer in Seoul in 1988. He’s now said it’s “time for a woman”.

“Australia has been lucky enough to have some great female athletes over the years including several who are here now,” he said.

“We have had quite a few males in succession and I would like to see them give a female athlete a chance.”

Gold medal winner and flag bearing contender Natalie Cook was more forceful, saying the decision to select a female to carry the flag in London, which will be her fifth Games, was “a no brainer”.

“I’ve walked behind four men. I think it’s definitely got to be a female,” she said, adding that she would sit in protest if a male carries the flag.

“From my view it has to be a women. Go the chicks.”

Though the decision won’t be revealed until Thursday night, Cook joked that that she has been practising her flag-carrying just in case.

The flag bearer will be decided by Australia’s chef de mission, Oarsome Foursome rowing medallist Nick Green, and will be announced at the team’s official reception in East London.

Although he is feeling pressure from many outspoken athletes, including seven-time world surfing champaion and Olympic athlete liaison office Layne Beachley, Green has said that a battle of the sexes would not effect his decision.

“Our flag bearer will be the best person to represent this country, as simple as that,” he said.

Related: Nervous Olympian Zara Phillips

Eight-time Olympic medallist Dawn Fraser is the latest to enter the debate, urging athletes to stay out of it.

“We shouldn’t be having this debate — the athletes will be listening to what being said and they have got more important things to worry about,” she said.

The top female contenders for the job include Natalie Cook, multiple medal winner and four-time Olympian Leisel Jones, and three-timer Libby Trickett.

Natalie Cook is the first female to represent at five summer Games, but shooters Michael Diamond and Russell Mark are at their sixth Olympics and equestrian Andrew Hoy enters his seventh.

Your say: Do you think a woman should be selected as the Australian team’s flag bearer?

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