- Associated Press - Thursday, February 6, 2014

SOCHI, Russia (AP) - Austria has named Nordic combined athlete Mario Stecher as its flag bearer for Friday’s opening ceremony at the Winter Olympics, replacing Alpine skier Benjamin Raich who has delayed his trip to Sochi.

Stecher won gold in the team event in 2006 and 2010 and is heading into his sixth Olympics.

Raich decided Monday to skip the Feb. 14 super-combined and focus on giant slalom and slalom in the final week of the Games.

The 36-year-old Stecher is Raich’s brother-in-law since marrying his sister Carina Raich six years ago.

Stecher is the Austrian Olympic Committee’s third choice after it initially considered its most decorated Olympian in Sochi, Thomas Morgenstern. However, the ski jumper is recovering from a crash and needs rest ahead of the qualification for the normal hill competition Saturday.

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