The 45-year-old Greenham’s choice is clear: she has been a staunch supporter of the Australian Commonwealth Games team for the past five editions, winning a silver medal at the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Games, and teaming with her sister Natalie to team gold at the Commonwealth Games. Melbourne Games and was one of the best Australian squash players on the world circuits. She missed the Delhi Games only due to injury.
Team Scotland have said their badminton stalwart Kirsty Gilmour is the first gay athlete to be honored, but Toowoomba’s Greenham came out as gay over five years ago, at the time saying “if we can help others, then it’s worth it.” “.
Greenham was shocked when Australian Team Chief of Mission Petria Thomas spoke about the honor of the flag in the presence of the Governor General, David Hurley and Linda Hurley, and in front of more than 300 team members at Birmingham University Athletes’ Village.
She was particularly excited that the Commonwealth Games are the largest international multi-sport event of which squash can be a part.
“It was a bit surreal when I think it’s my sixth time here,” she said, adding that in previous opening ceremonies, “we were never ahead, I’m the smallest too. (Will be) lucky if they see me.”
However, the Australian selections beat out another athlete who had also competed in the previous five Games, Victorian tennis player Jian Fang Lei.
Lay has represented Australia at six Olympic Games and has represented Australia at every Games since the sport was first held in Manchester in 2002, winning seven medals. Lei was born in Wenzhou, China and came to Australia in 1994 with her husband and training partner Jorge Lei.
Thomas said that Lay was not nominated for the part.
“She’s obviously very focused on her competition and I’m not sure how, how well, she’d be pleased to have the attention the flag bearers are getting.”
She said she did not take into account that hockey receives an award at subsequent Games.
“You look at the achievement, the longevity, the way they carry themselves, the respect they have in the team. Those were the factors. It wasn’t about what sport they came from. This is the quality of people.
Thomas decided to honor the raising of the flag to Okkenden, the second game in a row that the captain of the men’s hockey team has honored.
His roommate at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Kookaburra captain Mark Knowles, was the flag bearer at the 2018 Gold Coast Games.
Okenden, a three-time Commonwealth Games gold medal winner, noticed that he had impostor syndrome. “Am I worthy to lead such a fantastic team, can I do a good job?” he said, adding, “I’m sure I’ll be fine, it’s really great to be a part of this.”
Thomas said sports federations have submitted 25 nominations to be considered for the award.
“These decisions are not just based on how many Games they have played – they have to be exemplary athletes and Eddie and Rachel are definitely ticking that box,” she said.
“While we don’t actually have team captains, they become our unofficial team leaders, so it’s a great honor.
“And how grateful we are that we have the opportunity to have a man and a woman who carry the flag together.
“This is never an easy decision and was made in consultation with my teammates.
“It’s a huge honor to carry the flag.”
Over 200 of the 750 strong teams of athletes and officials will be attending the ceremony and due to the sudden change in the Australian team’s very strict rules, masks will not be required to be worn.
Thomas said: “The masks will be removed at this special moment. We are really focused on wearing masks indoors and while driving in crowded places, even on the street, but given the moment people want, we will be without masks.”
As NewsCorp reported earlier this week, athletes with covid will be allowed to compete in the Games if the team doctor gives permission. Thomas said, “Our goal is to make sure we can get people to the starting line.”
She added: “This is an important moment in the life of an athlete and the possibility of potentially missing out on something like COVID would be heartbreaking. Not a single stone was stopped in an attempt to get the athletes to the starting line, and I thank the Organizing Committee for such an approach.”
Originally published as Australia 2022 Commonwealth Games flag bearers, Australia Opening Ceremony time