The Italian Almanac

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Antonio Rossi

Olympic Flag Bearer

World champion canoer Antonio Rossi has been chosen to carry the Italian flag at the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics, the Italian national Olympic committee Coni announced. ''I am very honored to have been chosen as our flag bearer. I will be the standard bearer of a very strong team which is sure to give us all a lot of excitement,'' Rossi said after learning of Coni's decision. ''We are all aiming high and I, personally, hope to get a nice medal''.

According to Coni Chairman Gianni Petrucci, the choice of Rossi ''is in recognition of an athlete whose behavior has always been ethically impeccable, who has always been correct and loyal and whose statements have always been extraordinarily fair and measured. Aside from his behavior, we must not forget his excellent record as a sportsman. It is an honor to have an athlete like Antonio Rossi as Italy's representative''.

Rossi, 39, has already taken part in four Olympic Games winning a total of five medals, three of them gold, while in the kayak world championships he has won three gold medals, three silvers and one bronze medal. Off the water Rossi has served as a national ambassador for sports, a spokesman for Amnesty International and other associations involved in the battles against diseases like Alzheimer's and cancer.

As Italy's flag bearer, Rossi will be following in the footsteps of diver Klaus Dibiasi, high jumper Sara Simeoni, sprinter Pietro Mennea, rower Giuseppe Abbagnale and, in 2004, gymnast Jury Chechi.