Austria needs new flag bearer as Raich delays trip
VIENNA (AP) Austria is in need of a new flag bearer for Friday's opening ceremony at the Winter Olympics as Alpine skier Benjamin Raich has delayed his trip to Sochi.
Raich will skip the Feb. 14 super-combined, the Austrian Olympic Committee said Monday, which leaves the giant slalom five days later as his first event.
''I will fully focus on the giant slalom and the slalom, so I will travel to Russia one week later than initially planned,'' Raich said in an AOC statement.
Raich's start in the super-combined had already been doubtful for weeks because of the skier's persistent back problems.
The injury also prevented the 35-year-old Austrian from competing in a World Cup super-combined in Wengen, Switzerland, on Jan. 17, which was his last chance to meet the Olympic qualifying criteria for the discipline set by FIS.
However, the sport's governing body granted him exception on medical grounds and allowed him a start in the Olympic race.
The AOC will announce a new flag bearer on Thursday.
It will be the committee's third choice after initially considering three-time Olympic ski jump champion Thomas Morgenstern, the country's most decorated Olympian in Sochi.
However, Morgenstern is recovering from a ski flying crash and needs rest ahead of the qualification for the normal hill competition on Saturday, the day after the opening ceremony.