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The biggest names among the 2012 flag bearers

Katie Taylor of Ireland throws a punch at Saida Khassenova of Kazakhstan during their women's 60 kg division fourth round match at the AIBA World Women's Boxing Championships in China's northern city of Qinhuangdao, Hebei province, in this file picture taken May 15, 2012.

Reuters

Canadian flag bearer Simon Whitfield will likely have an interesting distinction when he marches around Olympic Stadium on Friday night in London: He is currently the only triathlete scheduled to carry his country's flag.

In the parade of 204 nations, Whitfield will be joined by an interesting cast of flag bearers that includes famous pro tennis players, basketball players, top fencers and even a track athlete who recently went through a gender controversy.

Here are 10 to watch out for:

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1. Usain Bolt, Jamaica, track and field: The world's fastest man will make his first appearance at the Games just after Italy and before Japan in one of the marquee moments of the parade.

2. Maria Sharapova, Russia, tennis: After missing Beijing due to injury, tennis beauty gets top billing among country's 436 athletes.

3. Yi Jianlian, China, basketball: Seven-footer who played for the Dallas Mavericks this season (and in the D-League) leads the 10th ranked Chinese men's basketball team.

4. Caster Semenya, South Africa, track and field: A silver medalist in the 800 metres at the worlds last year, Semenya made headlines around the world when the IAAF forced her to take a test to confirm her gender after coming out of nowhere to excel at the 2009 world championships. International LGBT activists have since taken up her cause.

5. Chris Hoy, Great Britain, cycling: One of five cyclists announced to carry the flag, Scottish veteran known as The Real McHoy is the most successful Olympic cyclist of all time with five medals, including three gold in Beijing.

6. Pau Gasol, Spain, basketball: Another seven-footer who won't have any problem carrying the flag, the Los Angeles Lakers star helped lead Spain to silver in 2008.

7. Novak Djokovic, Serbia, tennis: World No. 2 leads country's 115 athletes as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal sit this one competition out.

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8. Katie Taylor, Ireland, boxing: The Irish, European and world lightweight champion is also a top soccer player who has represented Ireland internationally in both sports but will only box at the Games.

9. Mariel Zagunis, United States, fencing: Three time Olympic medalist (including gold and bronze in Beijing) beat out several star studded teammates for the honour, becoming the third fencer (and first in nearly 50 years) to carry the flag for the U.S.

10. Valentina Vezzali, Italy, fencing: The three time defending gold medalist in foil has won an incredible five gold medals and seven total medals at four Olympics. Between the Olympics, world championships and European championships, she has 29 gold medals.

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About the Author
Hockey Reporter

James joined The Globe as an editor and reporter in the sports department in 2005 and now covers the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs. More

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