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    Monday, February 2, 1998

    Stojko would be `honored' to carry colors

    By STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun
    NAGANO --  Elvis Stojko has a burning desire and it's not just to win the gold medal.
      As much as he's reluctant to admit it, figure skating's ruling king would dearly love to carry the flag during the opening ceremonies at the Nagano Olympics on Saturday.
      "I'd be honored if I was chosen," Stojko said while taking a break from a computer game while on board a Toronto-Vancouver flight yesterday en route to Japan for the Winter Games. "It would be an amazing feeling."
      Stojko, 25, is considered one of the favorites to carry Canada's colors in the opening ceremonies and certainly is the fan favorite.
      His accomplishments heading into the Games are impeccable - three world singles championships, an Olympic silver medal from the 1994 Lillehammer Games, the first man to perform a quadruple jump in combination with another jump, the first man to land a quad-triple ... the list goes on.
      The Richmond Hill skater also has proved to be a man of solid character and has been a wonderful ambassador for Canada during his years competing internationally.
      The job of carrying the flag in the closing ceremonies at the Olympics usually is reserved for an athlete who performed best at those particular Games, such as biathlete Myriam Bedard in Lillehammer after winning her two gold medals.
      The honor in the opening ceremonies usually goes to someone who best personifies sportsmanship and character as well as an athlete who has accomplished great deeds in international sport.
      Stojko fits the bill in both instances. And while he would never say that he actually deserves to carry the flag, the chance to do so, he admitted yesterday would be a thrill of a lifetime. Almost as big a thrill as winning the gold.
      "I don't consider myself the favorite to carry the flag," Stojko said. "Just being on the team is great feeling.
      "I've been to two Olympic Games, sure, but there are many other competitors on our team who have the Olympic ideal and who would be a good choice to carry the flag. But sure, it would be a great honor."
      Stojko, under tremendous media and public scrutiny leading to the Games, admitted that there have been occasions during the past few weeks when the pressure almost has reached the boiling point. He calls them "tight" days.
      Indeed, while conducting an in-flight interview yesterday, a woman walked past and said: "Make sure you win."
      To which Stojko good-naturedly replied: "Ah, thanks."
      But skating's Terminator said he's fine now and is as ready as ever to challenge for the gold.
      "The biggest thing has been not to overtrain because you just want to go for it," he said. "You're just so gung-ho.
      "But that's just the way I am. If I want something, I go after it. No matter what, I'll keep going until I get it."
      And what he wants, of course, is to become the first Canadian to win the Olympic gold in the men's singles competition.