MOSCOW, July 10 Former tennis world number one
Maria Sharapova will be Russia's first female Olympic
flag-bearer at the London Games later this month, the national
Olympic committee confirmed on Tuesday.
"Sharapova will carry our flag," president of the Russian
Olympic Committee (ROC) Alexander Zhukov told reporters
following the ROC's executive board meeting.
"She was the most worthy candidate among all our athletes.
In June she claimed her fourth grand slam title (French Open)."
Russia broke with tradition by naming Sharapova, who also
won Wimbledon (2004), U.S. Open (2006) and Australian Open
(2008) titles, for the rare honour.
Since the Russians first took part in the 1952 Summer Games
in Helsinki as part of the Soviet Union this great honour was
traditionally given to famous male athletes such as Greco-Roman
wrestler Alexander Karelin and swimmer Alexander Popov, who have
won numerous Olympic titles.
"I am so honored, and especially excited as it will be my
first Olympics in my career," the Florida-based Russian said on
her official website (www.mariasharapova.com) when she first
heard the news about her nomination last month.
"I have had to keep this hush hush for two weeks and keeping
secrets is not my best quality!"
The 25-year-old will be making her Olympic debut in London
after failing to qualify for the 2004 Games in Athens and
missing the 2008 edition in Beijing with a shoulder injury.
(Reporting By Gennady Fyodorov; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)