Fernando Platas: “A really special moment and a feeling I’ll remember forever”

Fernando Platas represented Mexico at the 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games, winning diving silver in 2000. In both 2000 and 2004, he was also given the honour of carrying his nation’s flag at the Opening Ceremony.

Picture by IOC/Tsutomu Kishimoto

My first Olympic Games were in 1992 when I was only 19 years old and they were just amazing. The Barcelona Games had something really special around them- the feeling throughout the city was incredible. The opening ceremony is a really special moment for every one of the athletes and it’s definitely a feeling I’ll remember forever.

Four years later, in 1996, the Opening Ceremony of the Atlanta Games was, once again, amazing, but the style was very different style in comparison to Barcelona. Everybody was so excited to be in Atlanta - it’s a city that has such a great sporting tradition.

I was nominated to be flagbearer at the Opening Ceremony in Sydney in 2000 and that was just unbelievable - it was so special. The whole process of becoming flagbearer started when I was still at home in Mexico with the President announcing that I was being given the honour. It was, I have to admit, a real surprise for me to be selected as flagbearer. Deep down, in my heart, I had hoped that I would be chosen as the flagbearer but we had a lot of athletes who deserved the honour so to actually get it was a shock.

Picture by IOC

In Sydney, as the Opening Ceremony was beginning, we had to wait in a long hallway along with the other delegations before we could march into the stadium. That was a very exciting moment. I was nervous because I wanted to do everything right, make sure I marched in the correct way and not make any mistakes. When I walked into the stadium, I remember looking around and seeing thousands and thousands of people. And then I looked up at the big screen and it said Mexico and there was my name and my face. I was smiling - it was partly with nerves and partly with excitement.

It’s quite a strange feeling to be flagbearer because you’re alone with your teammates walking behind you and you see everybody in the stands. You watch the flagbearers for the countries who are ahead of you and you start to realise what a huge thing it is that your National Olympic Committee has recognised you in this way. But at the same time, you just enjoy yourself. For me, it was great to see the reaction of the other divers from around the world; they were really happy to see another diver being selected as a flagbearer because it’s like a member of your family being nominated.

Picture by IOC

I wouldn’t have missed the Closing Ceremony in Sydney for anything. I had just won a silver, my first Olympic medal, and I really enjoyed it. The Closing Ceremony was great because it was a chance to spend time with the entire team and see friends I hadn’t seen for a long time. The Sydney Games were a fantastic couple of weeks because in Australia, aquatics are a national passion, so it was very special to compete in front of their fans. And there was so many Mexicans at those Games supporting us; I still don’t know how there were so many!

To be flagbearer for a second time, in Athens in 2004, was unbelievable. Diving has a lot of tradition in Mexico; for a long time, [diver] Joaquin Capilla was the only two-time flagbearer and I have always been compared with him. I have a very good relationship with him and to be compared with someone who has an Olympic gold medal is an honour. And I’ve worked really hard not only to be a good athlete but to be someone who gives something back, so to get that recognition was great. I admire Capilla so much, so matching his achievement as a two-time flagbearer was amazing.

Athens 2004 was also very special because I knew that those Games would be the end of my career so to finish as flagbearer was just perfect. The Closing Ceremony in Athens was very emotional for me because I knew my career was over. Actually, everything in Athens was very emotional for me; I knew that would be the last time I would be with my teammates, my coach, my physical trainers; my last Olympics. For the first time ever, I just really enjoyed everything and was able to relax. At previous Games, I had always felt the pressure to perform and pressure to win a medal, but in Athens, I was able to fully relax.

At that Closing Ceremony, I felt a real sense of personal satisfaction. I felt that I had given everything throughout my career and I hadn’t held anything back. That competition was the one I enjoyed the most; throughout the whole Games, I just couldn’t stop smiling. I had planned to finish my career in the best way possible and I did. The Closing Ceremony in Athens was a great way to end things for me. I almost cried; not quite, but almost.