Olympics-Ayim and Hirayama named Canada's flag bearers for Tokyo Games

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(Reuters) - Women's basketball player Miranda Ayim and men's rugby sevens co-captain Nathan Hirayama will be Canada's flag bearers at this week's opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics, the Canadian Olympic Committee said on Monday.

The July 23-Aug. 8 Tokyo Games will mark the third and final Olympics for Ayim, who has represented Canada internationally for 15 years and was part of the team that won gold on home soil at the 2015 Pan American Games.

"I feel incredibly honoured to lead Team Canada alongside Nathan into the Opening Ceremony and to be representing not only my fellow athletes of Team Canada, but also the greater Team Canada: our nation," Ayim, who previously announced she would be retiring after Tokyo, said in a news release.

The fourth-ranked women's basketball team will start their quest for a first Olympic medal on July 26 against Serbia.

Olympic debutant Hirayama has been a key member of Canada's sevens teams since joining the squad in 2006 as an 18-year-old.

Hirayama has competed in all three Pan American Games that have included rugby sevens, winning two gold medals and one silver. This will be the first time Canada has a men's rugby sevens team at the Olympic Games.

"I've been watching the Olympics for my entire life and understand the honour and privilege that comes with being the flag bearer," said Hirayama. "It's something that I've never even dreamt of."

The men's rugby sevens open their Olympics with a pair of matches on July 26 against 2016 Rio Games runner-up Britain and reigning champions Fiji.

Canada will send a team of 371 athletes to the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics that will be the country's largest Olympic contingent since the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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