Knowles to restore pride to Australian sport
AUSSIE Commonwealth Games flag bearer Mark Knowles has vowed our athletes will help restore pride in Australian sport in the aftermath of the cricket cheating scandal.
One of the proudest players to don national colours, the Kookaburras captain was selected for the honour ahead of hot favourite Sally Pearson.
"It's very important for us to uphold the standards and behaviours of what the Commonwealth Games is about," Knowles said.
"It is an opportunity for us to, not redeem ourselves, but to show the type of people we are and the way that we go about our sport, the way that we win, but also the way that we lose."
Australian Mission Steve Moneghetti said Knowles was a fitting choice for flagbearer.
"He is a decent human being, he is modest, he embodies everything that is great about Australia," he said.
"He is an absolute rock and we think he will be an inspiring leader."
Knowles, competing in his fourth Games, said he was shocked to be given the nod.
"It's a huge honour," he said.
"As you get towards the back end of your career you realise these sorts of moments don't come around that often."
Also competing in her fourth Games, Gold Coaster Pearson was overlooked in favour of the popular Knowles, one of Rockhampton's favourite sporting sons who will retire after this event.
Knowles, known as one of the nice guys of Australian sport, is a hockey legend, having earnt more than 300 caps for the Kookaburras in a career including Olympic gold in Athens in 2004 along with gold at the last three Commonwealth Games.
Games officials have hinted that Pearson may still feature prominently in proceedings on opening night, but she had been considered an overwhelming favourite for what other Opening Ceremony flag-bearers described as "the biggest honour you can have".
Pearson grew up just down the road from Carrara Stadium and is one of the Gold Coast's most famous sporting stars, acting as an official ambassador for the Games as she chases a third straight gold medal in the 100m hurdles.
At 31, this is likely to be her last Commonwealth Games campaign.
A two-time world champion and gold medallist at the London Olympics, Pearson's sporting credentials are beyond reproach, but team officials still pumped for Knowles, who lived in Perth for 14 years as part of the national program, but has returned to Brisbane and remains a proud Queenslander.
He had considered retirement after the Rio Olympics, but pushed on for one more major campaign, which will see him rewarded with the honour of leading the Australian team on to Carrara Stadium in front of 35,000 screaming fans Wenesday night.
Former Australian flag-bearers Lisa Curry-Kenny and Kieren Perkins both recalled what they called one of sport's ultimate honours.
"It's the biggest honour you can have," said Curry-Kenny, who carried the flag at the Closing Ceremony in Brisbane as swimming's new golden girl, before taking the flag at the Opening Ceremony in Auckland eight years later.
Perkins, who held the honour in Kuala Lumpur in 1998, went even further.
"It's beyond the ultimate," he said.
Former 400m athletics star Rick Mitchell, who carried the flag in Brisbane's opening ceremony 36 years ago, said it still gave him tingles to thing about walking into the stadium at an opening ceremony proudly carrying the Australian flag.
"The feeling was beyond goosebumps," he said.
"It was one of the surreal moments that you never forget."