Yevgeny Plushenko is scheduled to compete the night before the Opening Ceremony and again three nights later in the new figure skating team event.
“It would be the highest honor, but the competition schedule doesn’t allow me to participate in the Opening Ceremony,” Plushenko said in Russian.
He was considered a favorite to carry the flag if available, and even had endorsements from hockey stars Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin. Plushenko is also a candidate to light the Olympic cauldron, but not participating at all in the Opening Ceremony would seem to rule that out.
Neither Ovechkin nor Malkin is expected to carry the flag since NHL players don’t generally march in the Opening Ceremony.
The list of champion candidates to be Russia’s flag bearer is dwindling. Two-time Olympic speed skating medalist Ivan Skobrev and two-time Olympic champion biathlete Olga Zaitseva are also unavailable due to competitions in the two days after the Opening Ceremony, according to Sovetsky Sport.
The outlet listed three favorites to carry the flag in their absence — former NHL All-Star Ilya Kovalchuk, now in the KHL, and two-time Olympic medalist bobsledders Aleksander Zubkov and Alexey Voyevoda.
Voyevoda would be notable given he is a professional arm wrestling champion and vegetarian.