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David J. Phillip, Associated Press
Torah Bright carries the Australian flag to lead her team during the opening ceremonies Friday.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Salt Lake snowboarder Torah Bright led her Australian teammates into the BC Place Stadium during the 2010 opening ceremonies Friday as that country's flag bearer.

"I'm still speechless," she said Thursday night at a team party, where the announcement was made by the Australian team chief Ian Chesterman. "I thought I was in trouble when (Chesterman) asked me in (Thursday morning). I didn't think about carrying the flag at all."

Bright was chosen because organizers consider her the "face of a new generation" of Olympic athletes. The Australian team — 40 athletes strong — is made up of some of the youngest athletes competing in the 2010 Games.

Snowboarder Scott James, who is coached by Bright's brother, Ben, and trains with Bright in Utah, is just 15 years old. Brittney Cox, also 15, will compete in moguls. Unlike the U.S. team, where athletes vote for which teammate will carry the nation's flag, the Australian flag bearer is chosen by the team's chief.

Bright, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who lives in Salt Lake's Sugar House neighborhood, will compete in the snowboarding halfpipe next week.

She joked that she had "experience" flying the flag, as she's waved it at X-Games victories.

At 23, Bright said she takes seriously the leadership role bestowed on her.

"At these Games, there are so many pressures on everyone, so if I can be leading the team, with a smile on my face and joy in my heart, and take this into my sport," she told her teammates, "I will do my best, and we will all do our best."

Bright said the honor extended to her hometown, Cooma, which is a small town at the base of Australia's Snowy Mountains.

"This is very special, not only for me but for my family and my town," Bright said. "I think this represents a new era. We have all these young kids coming up."

The Australian tradition has been to select a veteran as the flag bearer. Aerial skier Jacqui Cooper, who has been named to five Olympic teams, was considered a favorite, but didn't attend the opening ceremonies.

e-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com