Birmingham Commonwealth Games: Squash star Joelle King, shot putter Tom Walsh named New Zealand's flagbearers for opening ceremony

Squash player Joelle King and shot putter Tom Walsh have been named New Zealand's flagbearers for the opening ceremony for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

The pair were formally announced as the flagbearers by Chef de Mission Nigel Avery at a team function held overnight at New Zealand House in Birmingham.

King is one of New Zealand's most decorated Commonwealth Games athletes, having won six medals, including three gold and said she grew up in awe of New Zealand’s flagbearers.

"I'm really honoured to be adding my name to an amazing list of Commonwealth Games flagbearers," King said.

"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 doubles at Birmingham.

Joelle King competes in the singles gold medal match Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Joelle King competes in the singles gold medal match Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games. Photo credit: Getty Images

Walsh said he was thrilled to be carrying the New Zealand 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.”

Walsh is a two-time Olympic medallist, winning back-to-back shot bronze medals at the Rio and Tokyo Olympic Games. 

He is also a two-time Commonwealth Games medallist, winning gold at Gold Coast 2018 and silver at Glasgow 2014.

Tom Walsh in action at the World Athletics Indoor Championships Belgrade 2022.
Tom Walsh in action at the World Athletics Indoor Championships Belgrade 2022. Photo credit: Getty Images

The athletes were each presented with a pounamu pendant to be worn as they lead the New Zealand Team into the Opening Ceremony on Friday morning (NZ time). 

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.

It will be the first time a male and female athlete have jointly carried the New Zealand flag at a Commonwealth Games opening ceremony, with a change in Games rules allowing for the naming of both a male and a female flagbearer.

The flagbearers are chosen by the New Zealand Olympic Team Chef de Mission 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," Avery said.

"We know they'll do us proud as they lead our team into the Opening Ceremony, and we look forward to watching them compete over the next few weeks.

"We also acknowledge Ngāi Tahu Kuia Ranui Ngarimu and master carver Bevan Climo for gift of these special taonga."

The New Zealand Team function was attended by around 250 team members and was presided over by Governor General, Dame Cindy Kiro. The ceremony featured a cultural performance involving NZOC Kuia NZOC, Ranui Ngarimu, along with Kaumatua Derek Lardelli. 

Dame Sophie Pascoe was the last Commonwealth Games opening ceremony flagbearer, leading the team into the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games ceremony in 2018.

The Birmingham 2022 Opening Ceremony will be held on Friday at 7am (NZ time) at Alexander Stadium.

The New Zealand Team for Birmingham 2022 is made up of 233 athletes, from 19 sports and two Para-sports.

The Games will run from July 28 to August 8.