Mahe Drysdale was “very honoured" to complete the Olympic circle in London yesterday.
Bronze medallist in Beijing - gold medallist in London. Flag-bearer at the 2008 opening ceremony - flag bearer at the closing ceremony in 2012.
Drysdale has now achieved it all in his Olympic career.
His pride in his off-water role was evident as he marched into the stadium, representing New Zealand's most successful Olympic Games squad for 24 years.
The single sculls gold medallist was selected as flag-bearer at a team function in the Olympic Village before scores of Kiwi athletes marched the short distance to the stadium.
Drysdale fired off a quick tweet soon after his selection. “Just had a peek inside the stadium, [it's] going to be impressive I feel. Very honoured to be carrying [the] flag."
The 33-year-old from Cambridge was in top company. Some of his fellow flag-bearers were among the biggest stars at London 2012, including Kenya's world record-breaking 800m champion David Rudisha, Great Britain's most decorated sailor Ben Ainslie and Australian yachting victor Malcolm Page.
Drysdale - who became a New Zealand hero when he collapsed on the pontoon in Beijing from the ravages of a virus after his bronze medal row in 2008 - was a popular choice for the flag-bearer's role. Chef de Mission Dave Currie said the New Zealand team had focused on providing a high-performance environment where athletes respected and supported one another and had an absolute commitment to performance.
"The sport within the Olympic team that clearly demonstrated those principles was the rowing team.”
Mahe demonstrated his own commitment to high performance but for also his ongoing support of the other athletes within the New Zealand Olympic team.
“We are delighted to have named such a proud athlete who has played such an important role in creating and maintaining a positive and strong team environment," Currie said.
Drysdale seemed to rate the flag-bearer experience as an honour comparable to his Olympic title.
"Winning gold was just fantastic, but being able to support other athletes as they prepare for competition has been amazing.
"The New Zealand Olympic team has had some amazing performances and I am pleased I could support the whole team as they progressed through competition. It is fantastic to be a part of one of New Zealand's most successful Olympic teams ever."
The 2012 New Zealand squad won 13 medals - equalling the record set by the 1988 team in Seoul.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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