Team GB has announced a ‘Little and Large’ duo as our flag bearers for the Tokyo opening ceremony tomorrow.
Sailor Hannah Mills, who is 5ft 2in tall, received the honour alongside rower Moe Sbihi – a giant at 6ft 8in.
She said it was an ’emotional’ moment when she was told that she had been chosen for the role.
The pair were first nominated by their teammates before British Olympic Association officials made the final decision.
Tokyo 2020 organisers had asked for a man and woman from each team for the ceremony.
It is likely to be a much smaller affair than usual due to the fear of Covid infection among the athletes taking part.
But both Bris were felt to personify the ‘Olympic Values’ and Team GB’s goals of Pride, Responsibility, Respect and Unity.
Hannah is in good company – Anita Lonsborough was given the role at the last Tokyo games in 1964.
The 33-year-old, born in Cardiff, is a sustainability champion and campaigns for cleaner seas and less use of plastics.
Muslim Moe, the son of a Croydon barber, is a popular figure in rowing and is regarded as a ‘captain’ and role model by young team mates.
Both our flag bearers are Olympic champions, and follow in the footsteps of legends such as Sir Andy Murray and Sir Chris Hoy.
Hannah will be defending her women’s 470 title alongside Eilidh McIntyre in Tokyo. Moe, also 33, and a gold medallist in the men’s four five years ago, is the fourth rower to be given the privilege to march at the head of the delegation.
Speaking at Team GB sailing’s base in Enoshima, Hannah said it was ‘completely overwhelming’ to be given the role. “When I had a moment to think about what it meant I got pretty emotional,” she said.
“It is the greatest honour in my career. I hope more than ever before that this Games can lift our country and deliver some incredible sporting moments to inspire the nation.”
Moe, who along with his rowing teammates are staying in the Olympic Village for the first time since Sydney 2000, also spoke of his pride at being selected.
“It is such an honour to be invited to be the flagbearer for Team GB,” 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.
“I’ve won a medal, been to the Closing Ceremony but now to actually turn up at an Opening Ceremony. To be at the head of the team alongside Hannah will be a lifetime memory that I will never forget.”
Team GB Chef de Mission, Mark England, said it was ‘clear what the honour meant to them’. He added: “Not only what it meant to them personally, but also for their teammates and wider delegation in what has been the most difficult and unprecedented 18 months for everyone in the United Kingdom.
“Both athletes embody the Values of Team GB and they are thoroughly deserving of this great honour. Hannah and Moe have already created multiple Olympic memories and I have no doubt they will add to these in Tokyo over the next 16 days.”
In 2014, Mills and her then sailing partner Saskia Clark were robbed at knifepoint in Rio while in training for the Olympics. They went on to win gold in 2016.
“Our delightful walk back from the sailing club to the hotel turned fairly nasty when two guys wielding 7inch knives ran at us, pushed us around and grabbed everything we had,” the pair posted on their Facebook page on Wednesday night.
“Along with the things that were actually worth something, the most annoying thing right now is our lycra we were sailing in got taken … unbelievable!!” they added.
The 2012 women’s 470 class world champions, who took the Olympic silver in the event in the same year, said: “We made it back to the hotel slightly shaken but OK.”
Moe spoke of the sacrifices of competing in Tokyo, leaving behind his 10-month-old-son Idris on June 10 to go to European camp in Baresi, Italy, for three weeks, before arriving in Japan.
“Rowing is very simple – if you work hard, you get the reward,” he said.