Ancient Olympia, Greece • Alex Ovechkin said he is thrilled to kick off Russia's Olympic torch relay for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi a mammoth effort covering the country's nine time zones that will include a trip to outer space.
"I'm going to be probably smiling all the time and I'm going to remember this stuff for all of my life," the NHL star said late Saturday after arriving in Ancient Olympia for Sunday's flame lighting ceremony.
The 28-year-old Washington Capitals winger will be the first Russian to run with the torch on Sunday after 18-year-old Greek alpine skier Ioannis Antoniou will take it out of the ancient stadium in southern Greece, the birthplace of the ancient Olympics.
"I going to tell my kids, my grandkids, and it's probably one of the biggest moments in my life," Ovechkin said.
The 6-foot-3 hockey player said he was not worried about a potential match against his U.S.-based teammates.
"I'm playing in the NHL right now," he said. "I'm playing against lots of my friends, with players from different countries there so, you know, it's kind of going to be normal."
Ovechkin sidestepped controversy over Russia's record on gay rights, saying only that he was looking forward to the competition.
"To be honest with you, I'm a hockey player and I'm not [into] politics."