Wayde Van Niekerk Will Be Team SA Olympic Flag Bearer
World 400m champion Wayde van Niekerk has been given the honour of leading Team South Africa as the Olympic flag bearer at the opening ceremony for Rio 2016.
The 24-year-old athlete will carry the South African flag into the stadium during the opening of the Olympic Games in Brazil, leading a team of 137 athletes and sportspeople into the venue that will see him challenge for medals.
He is expected to feature on the podium for the men’s 400m race, if not earn gold in the event.
Van Niekerk made history at the Free State Championships in March by becoming the only athlete ever to run the 100m under 10 seconds, the 200m under 20 seconds and the 400m in under 44 seconds.
His time of 9.98 for the 100m, added to 19.94 for the 200m sprint and 43.48 over 400m puts the Olympic flag bearer in a class of his own.
The announcement was made at a gala event which was held as an official sendoff for both the Olympic and the Paralympic teams from South Africa.
Paralympic javelin thrower Zanele Situ will carry the SA flag at the opening ceremony for the Paralympics which will follow the Olympics. Situ has won multiple gold medals in his Olympic discipline, and will proudly lead the Paralympic team out in Rio.
The Team South Africa Twitter account confirmed Van Niekerk as the flag bearer, referring to his official Twitter handle when tweeting: “It’s official! World 400m champion @WaydeDreamer will be the Team SA flag bearer at the @Olympics opening ceremony #teamSArise.”
Support for the SA Olympic flag bearer and his team-mates
Speaking to the teams that will represent South Africa in both the Olympics and the Paralympic Games in Brazil, South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee president Gideon Sam spoke about the fact that the whole nation is behind their Olympic heroes.
“Support lifts a team to perform. Just imagine Wayde van Niekerk, Chad le Clos and Hilton Langenhoven being able to look up into the stands and seeing South African support with huge SA flags,” Sam said, according to The Citizen.
“In Rio no SA athlete should be without support. Our South African athletes mustn’t be drops in Rio they must be an ocean,” he added.
“Let us be unstoppable in Rio and remember whenever our sports perform, the nation is happy. Go to Rio knowing that people are behind you and love you. Whether it’s on TV or radio or social media, we we will be following you,” he concluded.
The Rio Olympics will begin on August 5 while the Paralympics will get underway on September 7.