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Mohamed Sbihi to make history as Team GB’s first Muslim Olympic flagbearer

Mohamed Sbihi to make history as Team GB’s first Muslim Olympic flagbearer

  • ‘It is such an honour,’ says Rio gold medal-winner
  • Sailor Hannah Mills will join rower at opening ceremony

in Tokyo

Last modified on Thu 22 Jul 2021 01.39 EDT

The gold medal-winning rower Mohamed Sbihi will make history on Friday after being announced as the first Muslim to carry the British flag at an Olympic opening ceremony. He will be joined by another gold medallist, the sailor Hannah Mills, a campaigner for clean oceans and the eradication of single use plastic in sport.

It is the first time that two competitors will be able to carry the flag after the IOC announced last year that each national Olympic committee could nominate one female and one male athlete as flag bearers.

Sbihi and Mills follow in the footsteps of some of Team GB’s most legendary athletes including Andy Murray, rowers Sir Matthew Pinsent and Sir Steve Redgrave, and also Anita Lonsborough, the first woman to carry the flag for Team GB in Tokyo in 1964.

Sbihi, who was plucked from his state school in Kingston by a programme that targeted schools outside rowing’s traditional public school catchment areas, spoke of his pride at being chosen.

“It is such an honour,” he said. “It is an iconic moment within the Olympic movement – people remember those images. I certainly remember the images of Andy 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.

“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.”

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Sbihi, who was the first practising Muslim to row for Britain before going on to win a gold medal at the Rio Olympics in the men’s four, added: “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.”

Mills, who will be defending her women’s 470 title alongside Eilidh McIntyre in Tokyo, said being chosen was the greatest moment of her career. “To be asked to carry the flag for Team GB at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games is not a sentence I ever thought I’d say. When I was told it was completely overwhelming and when I had a moment to think about what it meant I got pretty emotional.

“It is the greatest honour in my career and I hope more than ever before that this Games can lift our country and deliver some incredible sporting moments to inspire the nation.”

In 2019 Mills launched the Big Plastic Pledge, which aims to eliminate single-use plastics from sport, while last year she was chosen to be a European Climate Pact Ambassador.

“Every single beach, marina and harbour that I’ve sailed in is littered with plastic,” she said at the time. “That’s opened the gateway for me into the world of sustainability. I want to use my sporting background, networks and profile to raise awareness, change behaviour and influence others on environmental issues.”

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