Tokyo Olympics: Sarah Hirini, Hamish Bond named flagbearers for opening ceremony

Black Ferns Sevens captain Sarah Hirini and veteran rower Hamish Bond have been named NZ flagbearers for next month's Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony.

The pair were confirmed for the July 23 assignment at the official NZ Olympic team farewell on Wednesday in Auckland.

Hirini, 28, was a member of the women's sevens team that captured the silver medal, behind Australia, at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and has since guided them to Commonwealth Games gold and a World Cup Sevens crown.

She was absent from the announcement, with the Ferns contesting an Oceania tournament in Townsville this week, but she tearfully accepted the role at a special presentation before they departed.

"This means so much to me and my family," says Hirini. "Being able to carry the flag, and represent the women's sevens team and the wider New Zealand team at the opening ceremony is going to be such a huge honour.

"I can't wait to represent my country at these Games."

Bond is best known as half of the champion pair - with longtime partner Eric Murray - that won Olympic titles at London 2012 and Rio, as well as eight world titles, during a four-year unbeaten run.

After Rio, he switched to road cycling, where he won a Commonwealth Game time trial bronze medal, and set a national 4000m individual pursuit record on the track, before returning to the water.

At Tokyo, he will be part of an eight crew that achieved a last-gasp qualifying performance earlier this year.

"If you look back on the people who have been our flagbearers over the years, it's a pretty amazing bunch of athletes, so to be bestowed this opportunity is really special to me," says Bond.

"Our flagbearers have represented us with distinction, pride and respect in the past, and I'm really honoured to be adding my name to that list."

This will be the first time a man and women have brought the NZ flag into the stadium.

"Sarah and Hamish are outstanding athletes, and are also leaders off the field of play," says chef de mission and former Olympic rowing champion Rob Waddell.

"These athletes are role models and bring a huge amount of mana to our team. I'm extremely proud to be naming them as flagbearers."

Sailors Peter Burling and Blair Tuke carried the flag into the Rio opening ceremony five years ago, with athlete Nick Willis doing honours at London.

Hirini follows in the footsteps of discus thrower Beatrice Faumuina (Athens 2004) and sailboarder Barbara Kendall (Atlanta 1996), as women who have carried the flag at Summer Olympics.