Australia has announced co-flag bearers for the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony on Friday morning.
The Aussie team of 433 athletes will be led into Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium by Kookaburras legend Eddie Ockenden and squash veteran Rachael Grinham.
The pair will be the first mixed gender co-flag bearers Australia has ever had at the Commonwealth Games. It is also only the second time Australia has had co-flag bearers and the first time since the 1978 Games.
Ockenden is chasing a staggering fourth Commonwealth gold medal with the Kookaburras, who have won every gold medal since the sport entered the Commonwealth Games in 1998.
The 35-year-old is the second athlete from hockey to carry the flag, following in the footsteps of another Kookaburras co-captain Mark Knowles who was the flag bearer four years ago on the Gold Coast.
Grinham, who is competing at her sixth Games, is an eight-time medallist, including two gold medals, in Commonwealth competition. She is the first squash athlete given the honour of carrying the Aussie flag.
Australia’s Chef de Mission Petria Thomas made the announcement to more than 300 Australian team members inside the Birmingham University Athletes Village on Thursday morning.
According to reports, the pair weren’t given any indication they were about to be given the honour before being invited to take a stroll with governor-general David Hurley where they were given the news.
“These decisions are not just based on how many Games they have been too – they have to be model athletes and both Eddie and Rachael certainly tick that box,” Thomas said.
“Although we don’t actually have team captains, they do become our unofficial team leaders so it is a great honour.
“And how thankful are we that we get the opportunity to have a male and a female to carry the flag together.
“It is never an easy decision and this one was made in consultation with my fellow team executive members.
“It’s a massive honour to carry the flag.
“We saw the dual flag bearers in Tokyo last year and so often there is more than one stand-out athlete and it’s great to have that equal representation.
“It’s a landmark Games too with a record number of female events and actually more female team members in this team than males.
“These choices come with a lot of responsibility – this is a big one – and I know we have chosen two fantastic athletes who have shown great commitment to the Commonwealth movement.
“I know they will be fitting representatives for the team.”
Ockenden was blown away.
“It’s hard to put into words. To be able to represent hockey like Knowlesy did last time in the Opening Ceremony is a huge buzz,” he said.
“You have a bit of imposter syndrome thinking am I worthy to lead such an amazing Australian team… they are the first things that cross your mind.
“I’ve enjoyed watching other people carry the flag in previous Games, so it’s pretty cool that Rachael and I have the chance to do it.
“I love representing Australia in hockey but I love the other sports as well and being able to continue on the tradition of the Commonwealth Games and represent the athletes is amazing.”