Rochette to carry Canada's flag as Olympics reach end

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By Janet Guttsman

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Figure skater Joannie Rochette will carry the Maple Leaf flag for hosts Canada at Sunday's closing ceremony for the Vancouver Olympic Games, a mark of her strength in the most adverse of circumstances.

Rochette won Canadian hearts when she skated to a bronze medal just days after the death of her mother.

Weeping after an emotionally charged short program, she said she switched her emotions off when it came to the more demanding long program, skating as though she was locked in a block of ice.

"When I was asked to carry the flag into the stadium tonight I was surprised and shocked, because I only won a bronze medal," she told a news conference Sunday.

"It's been a tough week for me, but when I walk into that stadium it will be to celebrate how great Canada was at these Games. I want to walk into that stadium with a big smile on my face. I want to celebrate with my team mates tonight.

Rochette's bronze medal was one of 25 already won by the host nation at the Vancouver Games, with one more guaranteed from the ice hockey final in the afternoon.

Canada has taken home 13 gold medals, the most ever won by a host nation for a winter Olympics and a record-equaling total by any country.

(Reporting by Janet Guttsman, editing by Jon Bramley)