Six-time squash medalist Joelle King and reigning shot put champion Tom Walsh have been named as flagbearers for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games opening ceremony.
It will be the first time a male and female athlete have jointly carried the New Zealand flag at the Commonwealth Games, with a change in Games rules allowing for the naming of both a male and a female flagbearer.
The pair were formally announced as ngā pou hapai (flagbearers) by chef de mission Nigel Avery at a team function held at New Zealand House in Birmingham in front of more than 200 team members and the Governor General, Dame Cindy Kiro.
King is one of New Zealand’s most decorated Commonwealth Games athletes, having won six medals, including three gold.
Gold Coast 2018 was King’s most successful games. She won gold in the women’s singles, gold in the women’s doubles with Amanda Landers-Murphy and bronze in the mixed doubles with Paul Coll.
Lining up for her fourth Commonwealth Games, King is one of the in-form players of 2022 having won the Manchester Open in consecutive events and made the semi-finals at the British Open.
King said she grew up in awe of New Zealand’s flagbearers.
“I’m really honored to be adding my name to an amazing list of Commonwealth Games flagbearers.
“There’s such a great team behind us so it’s going to be really special to lead them onto such a big stage.”
King will compete in the singles, women’s doubles and mixed doubled at Birmingham 2022.
Walsh is all set for his third Games appearance in Birmingham. At the 2014 Glasgow Games he won shot put silver before upgrading to gold at the Gold Coast edition in 2018.
The two-time Olympic medalist said he was thrilled to be carrying the flag alongside King.
“I’ve reflected on this a bit and I’m really proud,” Walsh said.
“It’s something that not many people get to do. I’m really looking forward to leading the team, waving our flag, and soaking up the whole experience.”
The athletes were each presented with a pounamu pendant to be worn by as they lead the New Zealand team into the opening ceremony on Friday.
The pounamu was carved for the New Zealand team by Ngāi Tahu master carver Bevan Climo, with Rakinui (the Sky Father) pounamu to be worn by the male flag bearer and Papatūānuku (the Earth Mother) pounamu to be worn by the female flag bearer.
The flagbearers are chosen by Avery taking into account a wide range of factors including past performances, ability to lead and inspire New Zealand athletes, competition preparation and performance standards.
“These two athletes have inspired New Zealanders with their performances for more than a decade and they epitomise the special values and culture of our team,” said Avery.
The Birmingham 2022 opening ceremony will be held at Alexander Stadium and the Games run until 9 August.