November 15 - The Italian Paralympic Committee (CIP) has today announced the captain of the country's ice sledge hockey team Andrea Chiarotti will be the flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony of Sochi 2014.
The 47-year-old, who led his side to a second place finish at the Sochi 2014 Qualification Tournament last month, has been a mainstay of ice sledge hockey in Italy since making his international debut at the 2005 European Championships in Zlin, Czech Republic, before competing at Turin 2006, when the sport joined the Paralympic programme.
Since then Chiarotti has helped his side go on to qualify for Vancouver 2010, where they finished seventh, and also win the European ice sledge hockey crown in 2011 after a shock final victory over former world champions Norway in Solleftea, Sweden.
"As soon as I picked up the phone, I confess I was confused, it's amazing," said Chiarotti, a promising able-bodied hockey player before being paralysed in a motorcycling accident in 1990.
"[Luca] Pancalli, the President [of the CIP] informed me of the resolution of the Board, and I was excited and embarrassed.
"I want to say that the whole team will bring the flag, not only I.
"I am nothing, it must be clear, I represent the team.
"I hope to reward those people who believed in me but especially those who believed in the whole team because I represent an entire group and it is this extraordinary group that will bring the flag.
"Today is only the last of the choices that the CIP has done to support us from the Paralympic Winter Games in Turin in 2006 and we are all extremely grateful and thankful."
Chiarotti is also the captain of the reigning Italian national champions, the Piedmont Sitting Bulls, who's Championship victory this year followed on from wins in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
He joins double Olympic luge champion Armin Zöggeler, who will be the Italian flag bearer at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games Opening Ceremony.
"It 'a choice, shared with the members of the National Board of the CIP, which is intended to reward not only the man and the athlete, but an entire team," said Pancalli.
"From Torino 2006 [they were] able in a few years to become [the] Cinderella from the world of Paralympic sport of ice [hockey] and win the European title in 2011 and a qualification that deserved to be at Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014."
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