Maria Höfl-Riesch will carry Germany's flag at the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia. The 29-year-old alpine skier is considered one of her nation's best gold medal prospects in Sochi.
Höfl-Riesch is to lead Germany's 153-strong team out at the opening ceremony on Friday, having been selected ahead of speed skater Claudia Pechstein and biathlete Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle for the honor. Veteran biathlete Andrea Henkel had removed herself from the running due to the demands of traveling to the opening ceremony from the biathlon venue, located some distance from Sochi.
"This is a huge honor for me. I'm very, very proud," Höfl-Riesch said at a press conference on Thursday. "Leading the team out - that's a dream come true."
The German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) made the announcement shortly after she had completed her first training run for the Alpine event, placing sixth overall.
"From the beginning, she was the favorite without controversy," said Germany's Chef de Mission Michael Vesper, adding Germany could not have made a better choice. "… The entire team will be happy to get behind her."
Höfl-Riesch won gold in both the slalom and super-combined events at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, and is leading the 2013 World Cup standings. The 29-year-old German is hotly tipped to medal in all five events in which she is competing in Sochi.
Competition in Sochi began on Thursday, with qualification in men's and women's snowboard slopestyling, women's freestyle moguls skiing and team figure skating events.