|Gymnastics veteran Jordan Jovtchev will kick off his record sixth Olympic appearance by carrying the flag for Bulgaria in Friday's Opening Ceremonies.
Gymnastics elder statesman Jordan Jovtchev will kick off his record sixth Olympic appearance by carrying the flag for Bulgaria in Friday's Opening Ceremonies at the Olympic Games in London.
"It will be an honor for me to carry the Bulgarian flag," Jovtchev said on Wednesday in London.
Jovtchev, 39, will be the first male gymnast to compete in six Olympic Games. Fellow living legend Oksana Chusovitina, 37, is set to match his feat in London as a member of the German women's team. Both gymnasts made their Olympic debuts 20 years ago at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.
The four-time world champion owns four Olympic medals, winning two bronzes in 2000 and one silver and one bronze in 2004. He finished a controversial second on still rings at the Olympic title in Athens, where Greece's own Dimosthenis Tambakos famously took the gold.
In London, Jovtchev is unlikely to take a medal, though he has an outside shot at the still rings final. He is dealing with multiple injuries to his shoulder, biceps and wrist. He has been postponing surgery to repair a torn biceps until after the Games.
"It is impossible to be perfectly fit at this age and in such an injury-prone sport," said Jovtchev, who is also president of the Bulgarian Gymnastics Federation.
Gymnasts rarely march in the Olympic Opening Ceremonies, which typically requires hours of standing and walking in heat and humidity the day before competition begins. Years ago, it was more common for competing gymnasts to serve as flag bearers.
The legendary Takashi Ono carried the flag in Rome before helping Japan win its first Olympic team title. Eight years later, the great Yukio Endo carried the flag at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, where he helped Japan win a third straight team title.
Retired gymnastics champions have made their appearances, as well. Italian great Jury Chechi carried "il Tricolore" at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. 1956 and 1960 Olympic champion Albert Azaryan, now 83, proudly carried the flag for Armenia in 2004 and 2008.