Burling and Tuke named New Zealand Olympic flag bearers

Blair Tuke (L) and Peter Burling (Getty Images)
Blair Tuke (L) and Peter Burling (Getty Images)

World champion sailors Peter Burling and Blair Tuke will carry the New Zealand flag into the Maracana Stadium on Saturday (NZT), with the pair named flag bearers for the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and co-captains for the New Zealand team.

It's the first time New Zealand has handed the responsibility to two athletes, though rowers Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell both carried the flag into the closing ceremony of the Beijing games in 2008.

London silver medallists Burling and Tuke are heavy favourites for gold in the 49er class after a remarkable string of 27 straight victories - including four world championship titles.

Three-time Olympian Burling will carry the flag with Tuke alongside him, while both will wear traditional kakahu (cloaks).

"We are so incredibly proud to be leading the team together and to be honoured as a crew," said Burling.

"We would not have had the success we have had without each other and we know this is the case for many of us in the New Zealand Olympic Team."

Burling and Tuke named New Zealand Olympic flag bearers

Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (Photosport)

The pair were presented with the cloaks by New Zealand Olympic Team Chef de Mission Rob Waddell and Governor General His Excellency the Rt. Hon. Lt. Gen. Sir Jerry Mateparae at a function that included a bateria (samba drumming group) from Rio de Janeiro's Mangueira community that the New Zealand team has been working with during their time in Rio.

"We are just so proud and, by sharing our experiences gained as a team, we hope we can inspire incredible performances here in Rio," said Tuke of the honour.

The co-captains will provide leadership to the team.

Burling and Tuke named New Zealand Olympic flag bearers

Blair Tuke and Peter Burling (Photosport)

"The joint appointment is a step away from Olympic tradition but it acknowledges the importance of teamwork at the Olympic Games” said chef de mission Rob Waddell.

"Pete and Blair have delivered exceptional performances as a crew over the past four years and have epitomised the values and culture of the New Zealand Olympic Team.

"Their focus on achievement is without compromise, but as proud New Zealanders and Olympic Ambassadors they also take the time to share their inspiring stories with youngsters. We know they will inspire through achievement and performance."

Burling and Tuke will lead around sixty members of the New Zealand team into the Maracana Stadium for tomorrow's opening ceremony.