Fencing champion Lei Sheng to fly the flag for China at Rio Olympics
2012 gold medallist first non-basketball player to receive honour at summer Games since 1984
Fencing champion Lei Sheng will be China’s flag-bearer at the Rio Olympics opening ceremony, the team confirmed at their official welcome ceremony.
Sheng, 32, won gold in the foil at London 2012 and also proudly carried the nation’s flag at the 2014 Asian Games.
“Sport has a comprehensive function, not only athletically, but also to fully reflect the overall quality of spiritual civilisation, and China’s image of Chinese sports and athletes,” said chef de mission Liu Peng.
The 1.93m Lei was only informed of the team’s decision to make him the flag-bearer at an announcement made at the team’s welcome ceremony at the athletes village on Wednesday.
“If I was really made the flag-bearer, it would definitely be something glorious with a lot of responsibility attached to it,” he told mainland media before the announcement was made.
China’s previous flag-bearers since 1984 have all been basketball players, with former NBA star Yi Jianlian taking over from Yao Ming in London.
Lei will be the first non-basketballer to carry China’s flag at an Olympics opening ceremony when he leads out the team on Friday in Rio.
Lei, universally hailed by Chinese media for his “tall and handsome” stature, reportedly beat diving star Wu Minxia for the honour.
Team China have 416 athletes competing in Rio – their largest overseas delegation in the history of the Games.