Flagbearers share their emotions ahead of the Beijing 2022 Opening Ceremony

From USA's John Shuster and Brittany Bowe to China's Gao Tingyu and Zhao Dan, we hear from several flagbearers on the eve of one of the most important moments of Beijing 2022.

By Hayes Creech
Picture by GETTY IMAGES

The Parade of Nations at the Opening Ceremony is a highlight for regular watchers of the Olympic Games.

The sea of the globe’s flags streaming into the arena is always inspiring. Each year we all learn a few more things about places we’ve never been, and perhaps in some cases, places we’ve only just learned about.

But what can sometimes be forgotten is just how important and defining a moment it can be for the athlete flagbearers at these ceremonies. For the first time at a Winter Olympic Games two flagbearers from each nation will lead in their respective groups of athletes.

Ahead of the Beijing 2022 Opening Ceremony, we hear from a few of the athletes who have been selected for the honour and what it means for each of them to represent their nation in front of the watching world.

‘Incalculable emotion’

For hosts People's Republic of China, speed skater Gao Tingyu and skeleton athlete Zhao Dan were chosen by the Chinese Olympic Committee to carry out the flag.

"I'm so honoured to be the flagbearer of Team China for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games opening ceremony," Gao wrote on Chinese social media site Weibo, according to CGTN. "It's exciting enough to compete at home, bearing the Chinese national flag gives me extra motivation.I have been looking forward to doing this for a long time. I will try to respond to this trust in me with my best performance in the Games."

Zhao will be the first Chinese athlete to compete in the women's skeleton at the Games. "I'm lucky enough to compete at home and now I am given another role," Zhao wrote on Weibo. "It gives me a bigger sense of responsibility and mission. I will cherish this trust in me, give full play to my potential and show the best of myself in the competition."

“It was an incalculable emotion, because when we train for an Olympic sport, the dream is always to be able to represent your country in an Olympics, and when we are at the Olympic Games and you are still invited to be your country’s flagbearer at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, plays a movie in your head and makes all the effort and dedication to get there, worth it,” Brazilian bobsledder and flagbearer Edson Bindilatti explained to Firstsportz. He will be joined by cross-country skiier Jaqueline Mourão.

Two-time Olympic champion in women's ice hockey Marie-Philip Poulin described the call-up as "surreal", and her partner on the day for Canada will be short track speed skater Charles Hamelin.

"I never said to myself, 'One day I want to be the flagbearer of Canada,”' Hamelin told The Canadian Press. “But for me to be here is the greatest honour of all. And to see all the young kids and being one of the leaders of the team, for me I take my role seriously."

Team USA's flagbearers will be curling legend John Shuster and speed skater Brittany Bowe, who will be replacing Elana Meyers Taylor, who is currently self-isolating after testing positive.

"It's a tremendous honour," Shuster said. "And the fact that, it was a vote done by our peers is the thing that makes it such an honour. Getting a chance to walk hand-in-hand, carrying our flag with another one of our teammates, I think is one of the coolest concepts that the Olympics has come up with."

The French duo of alpine skiier Tessa Worley and freestyle skiier Kevin Rolland, who suffered a serious injury nearly three years ago, will share the honour for the Tricolore at the Bird's Nest.

"To come back after my accident, at the Olympic Games, and be the standard-bearer for the team is symbolically very strong," Rolland said. "It was more emotional than I expected. I am super proud."

"I hope to transmit maximum positivity and create good energy for the team," Worley said. "I want to share emotion as much as possible and share experience with all the team. We will all benefit from everyone’s experience."

Another skier selected is Wendy Holdener of Switzerland, who is joined by the Swiss ice hockey forward Andres Ambuhl.

Australia have selected freestyle skiing aerials specialist Laura Peel and figure skater Brendan Kerry for the Opening Ceremony athletes parade. They're both making a third Games appearance.

“I was absolutely speechless when Geoff [Lipshut, Australian Olympic Team Chef de Mission] told me I was going to be a Flag Bearer. It was the biggest shock and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. I am honoured. I honestly thought he was calling me because there was a big problem," Kerry said.

The pioneers

For some Olympian flagbearers, they are the very first representatives from their nations at the Winter Games.

"It is a dream for me to be here and represent Haiti in a Winter Olympics for the first time,” Richardson Viano told the PA news agency. "I hope this will show our country is about more than earthquakes and other disasters."

India's alpine skiier Arif Mohd Khan will be the first to represent a country of 1.4 billion at the Winter Games. “It’s an achievement in and of itself," he told Outlook Magazine. "I always wanted to be someone who would draw a line for the generation to follow. I’m feeling very happy and proud to be carrying the flag in the Opening Ceremony, which will be seen by the world."

Alpine skiier Carlos Mäder will be Ghana's sole representative at Beijing 2022 and will be carrying in the flag with a great sense of pride.

"So proud to start for Ghana at the Olympic giant slalom and so honoured to carry the flag at the Opening Ceremony," he wrote on Instagram. "Was a long, hard but exciting journey over the past four-five years - very thankful that I could make all these amazing experiences and friendships for life, 'big thanks' to everybody that supported me on this way."

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