By ALAN THATCHER (Squash Mad Editor)
Commonwealth Games women’s singles top seed Joelle King has been selected as a joint flag-bearer for New Zealand in tomorrow’s opening ceremony.
Three-time Commonwealth Games champion King will join shot-putter Tom Walsh, a two-time Olympic bronze medallist, in flag-carrying duties during the pageant at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium.
The pair were announced as Ngā Pou Hapai (flagbearers) by Chef de Mission Nigel Avery at a team function held tonight at New Zealand House in Birmingham.
King is one of New Zealand’s most decorated Commonwealth Games athletes, having won six medals, including three gold. She says she grew up in awe of New Zealand’s flagbearers.
“I’m really honoured to be adding my name to an amazing list of Commonwealth Games flagbearers,” said King.
“There’s such a great team behind us so it’s going to be really special to lead them onto such a big stage.”
The Bristol-based world No.5 King, 33, will compete in the singles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles in the squash events at Birmingham University.
The function was attended by around 250 team members and was presided over by Her Excellency the Governor General, Dame Cindy Kiro. The ceremony featured a cultural performance involving NZOC Kuia NZOC, Ranui Ngarimu, along with Kaumatua Derek Lardelli.
She and Walsh were each presented with a pendant, called a pounamu, to be worn as they lead the New Zealand team into the Opening Ceremony tomorrow.
The pounamu was carved by Ngāi Tahu master carver Bevan Climo, with Rakinui (the Sky Father) pounamu to be worn by the male flag bearer and Papatūānuku (the Earth Mother) pounamu to be worn by the female flag bearer.
It will be the first time a male and female athlete (Te Pou Hapai Wahine, Te Pou Hapai Tane) have jointly carried the New Zealand flag at a Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony, with a change in Games rules allowing for the naming of both a male and a female flag-bearer.
The flag-bearers are chosen by the New Zealand Olympic Team Chef de Mission taking into account a wide range of factors including past performances, ability to lead and inspire New Zealand athletes, competition preparation and performance standards.
Avery said: “These two athletes have inspired New Zealanders with their performances for more than a decade and they epitomise the special values and culture of our team.
“We know they’ll do us proud as they lead our team into the Opening Ceremony, and we look forward to watching them compete over the next few weeks.”