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Saville to carry Commonwealth Games flag
14 March 2006

Dual Commonwealth champion Jane Saville has won a job that virtually guarantees her a third Games gold medal.

Saville will carry the Australian flag into the MCG at Wednesday's opening ceremony, a task she described as one of the greatest honours an athlete can be given.

In all but one of the 17 Commonwealth Games held so far, the Australian flag bearer has gone on to win a gold medal.

With Saville already the favourite to repeat her performances in Kuala Lumpur and Manchester in the 20km walk, she is now a near certainty.

For Saville, the opportunity to lead her team into the stadium will help ease the memory of her worst moment in sport.

In Sydney in 2000, Saville arrived at the tunnel leading into Stadium Australia with an Olympic gold medal almost hanging around her neck. When she emerged from the tunnel, she was in tears, her dream shattered by a judge who disqualified her for "lifting".

She has since won an Olympic bronze medal and a second Commonwealth gold - and now she has received a further honour. But she said the memory of that tragedy in Sydney would never leave her and that she could never be compensated for being robbed of an Olympic title.

"It's always with me, it's a part of me," Saville said. She said being named as Australia's flag bearer couldn't be compared with the events of Sydney. "They are two completely different scenarios," she said. "This one is more stressful in some ways ... I don't want to stuff it up.

"But at least there won't be any judges there to worry about how I'm walking or my technique." Saville also revealed she hadn't even intended being in Melbourne for the opening ceremony until being named today.

"I'll have to rearrange my whole week," she said. "I didn't even consider, I wasn't coming down to the opening ceremony, I was going to get treatment from my chiropractor in Sydney and shout myself to a facial on Wednesday."

Australia's tradition of flag bearers becoming Commonwealth champions began with the legendary rower Bobby Pearce in Hamilton, Canada at the first Commonwealth Games in 1930. The most recent flag bearer to win gold was weightlifter Damian Brown in Manchester.

The only time the system failed was in 1978 in Edmonton when the cycling brothers Remo and Salvatore Sansonetti, who jointly carried the flag, missed out.

Team management also named butterfly swimmer Adam Pine to swear the oath on behalf of all the Games athletes at the opening ceremony. The only Australian swimmer to have competed at four Commonwealth Games, Pine said he would now have to practise his oratory skills.

"I'll have to polish my English a little bit and be ready to say the right words with the correct accent," Pine said. "I'm really looking forward to it." Pine won a gold medal in the 4x100m relay team at the Sydney Olympics.


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