Skater humbled to lead NZ
Palmerston North speed skater Shane Dobbin will lead the New Zealand team into the opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics.
Dobbin was presented with the symbols of the New Zealand Olympic team yesterday in a ceremony at the athletes' village in Sochi, Russia.
Against a background of flags of the world, the magnificent Fisht Stadium and the stunning snow-covered Caucasus mountains, the 33-year-old was cloaked with Te Mahutonga, the New Zealand team kakahu (cloak) and presented with the traditional pounamu pendant worn by the flag-bearer.
Team members gathered to acknowledge the athlete with a formal greeting and karakea.
Chef de mission Pete Wardell said Dobbin was selected as flag-bearer because of his standing in the team, for being representative of the Olympic movement and after consistent and strong results in competition.
"Shane demonstrates the values we expect of an Olympian," Wardell said. "He is respected within the team and has great mana amongst his peers. With proven results he is a world-class athlete, a wonderful role model and an inspiration.
"Our flag-bearers become part of our sporting history and we're delighted Shane will become one of a series of exceptional Olympic ath letes who have led and inspired our teams."
Dobbin said he's proud to wear the cloak and lead the team.
"This is a great honour. To wear the beautiful team cloak and to walk into the opening ceremony together with the team is something I could never have imagined. I am determined to make the team, and our country, proud. Seeing the New Zealand Olympic team compete as a child was an inspiration to me and I hope I can inspire a new generation, too."
Dobbin has been at the Olympic village in Sochi Russia for six days. With some strong training performances behind him, he will first compete in Adler Stadium on February 9 in the 5000m and his favoured 10,000m on February 19.
Dobbin said he's pleased with the timing of his events.
"Opening with the 5000m gives me a chance to acclimatise and prepare for the 10,000m. While I'll be going for it 100 per cent in the 5K the focus is on preparation for the 10K. I'll be looking for a top-15 performance and if I achieve that I'm on track for the 10K."
The opening ceremony is from 5am on Saturday (NZT).