Sports

Rower Mohamed Sbihi to become first Muslim to carry British flag at Olympics opening ceremony


Thu, 2021-07-22 12:43

LONDON: British rower and gold medalist Mohamed Sbihi will on Friday make history when he becomes the first Muslim to carry the British flag at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, a role he will share with another gold medalist, sailor Hannah Mills.

Sbihi, 33, won a gold medal in the coxless four at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and claimed a bronze as part of the British crew in the men’s eight at London 2012.

Tokyo 2020 is the first Olympics in which each participating nation can nominate one male and one female athlete to carry its flag.

Sbihi, who received an MBE in the British Queen’s 2017 New Year’s Honors list, and Mills, a campaigner for clean oceans, now join famous names such as tennis star Andy Murray, rowers Sir Matthew Pinsent and Sir Steve Redgrave, and gold medal-winning swimmer Anita Lonsbrough — the first British woman to carry the flag at Tokyo 1964 — in having that privilege.

“It is such an honor to be invited to be the flagbearer for Team GB,” Sbihi said. “It is an iconic moment within the Olympic Movement — people remember those images.

“I certainly remember the images of Andy (Murray) from Rio and even before I was a rower, I remember seeing Sir Matt and Sir Steve, so it is something I am incredibly proud of,” he added.

Sbihi, who was born in Kingston upon Thames to a Moroccan father and British mother, gave notice of his talent as a rower at the age of 15 when he finished first in the junior men J15 category at the 2003 Great Britain Indoor Rowing Championships.

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He continued to rise in the sport while studying sports science at St Mary’s College between 2006 and 2010, going on to become the first Muslim rower to represent Team GB and then take part in the London Olympics.

“It is going to be a surreal experience actually going to an opening ceremony but this year with the racing schedule it is actually manageable even if I wasn’t a flagbearer. It will be really special and will complete my Olympic puzzle.

“I’ve won a medal, been to the closing ceremony but now to actually turn up at an opening ceremony and be at the head of the team alongside Hannah will be a lifetime memory that I will never forget,” Sbihi said.

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