Cambodia’s medal hope Sorn Seavmey will share a historic moment with some of the world’s greatest sports personalities when she steps into the majestic Maracana stadium today as the Kingdom’s flag and placard bearer during the Parade of Nations as part of the spectacular Rio 2016 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony.
The 20-year old Seavmey will follow in the footsteps of her elder sister Sorn Davin who did the honours at the 2012 London Olympics.
The taekwondo star’s Olympic debut, with the coveted status as standard bearer, will be in the illustrious company of the most decorated Olympian of all time, swimmer Michael Phelps, who will lead the US delegation.
Multiple tennis grand slam winner Andy Murray will carry the flag for Britain, while Rafael Nadal and cycling double gold medallist Anna Meares will do so for Spain and Australia.
But surely the most inspiring sight of all in the parade will be that of the 10-member refugee team led by 17-year-old Syrian swimmer Yusra Mardini, who will carry the Olympic flag under which the team will be competing to show solidarity with the world’s refugees.
After her house was destroyed in the Syrian conflict, Yusra and her sister fled the country to Lebanon and then Turkey, from where they tried to reach Greece in an overcrowded boat which stopped working in the Aegean Sea. Once their dinghy began to take water, they swam in the water, pushing it along for three hours to the island of Lesbos, from where they eventually made it to Germany.
“Having no national team to belong to, having no flag to march behind, having no national anthem to be played, these refugee athletes will be welcomed to the Olympic Games with the Olympic flag and with the Olympic anthem,” said Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee.
Meanwhile, Seavmey will be drawing strength and inspiration from her previous role as the flag-bearer at the Incheon Asian Games in 2014, where she won Cambodia’s first ever Asiad gold medal.
“I am very proud of my achievement and I am honoured and excited to be the flag bearer for the team in this Olympics,” she said in an interview with the Games’ official outside broadcasting service.
“I feel . . . a little bit nervous because there are many stages to pass before getting a medal here, but I want to give my best and see how far I can go,” she said
Seavmey believes that the support of her fans back home, especially those who have been following her on Facebook, gives her strength and motivation as well as wanting to do something great for her family.
“It gives me great motivation and strength that a lot of people are following me, now I have over 1.1 million fans and this is a great influence on my performance,” she added.