“It’s just a big as winning a medal.”
That was the thrilled reaction of three-time Irish Olympian Paddy Barnes today after he was selected as Team Ireland flag bearer for Rio 2016.
Barnes is the seventh Irish boxer to be selected as a Team Ireland flag bearer at the Olympic Games, following in the footsteps of Matt Flanagan (1928), Tony Byrne (1956), Jim McCourt (1968), Wayne McCullough (1988), Francie Barrett (1996) and Katie Taylor (2012).
Barnes’ selection was announced at a media conference today to mark 100 days until the 2016 Games begin in Rio.
“I’m over the moon. It’s a great honour to be put on me and I’m just over the moon,” said the Belfast light-flyweight following today’s announcement.
“I’m really, really grateful. It’s not very often people carry the flag at the Games. Carrying the flag for me, leading your country at the biggest sporting event in the world, it’s just great, added the two-time Olympic bronze medallist.
“I’m delighted to have been asked to carry the Irish flag into the Olympic Stadium at the Opening Ceremony.
“It’s an amazing feeling to represent Ireland at an Olympic Games and I’ve been lucky enough to experience it twice before already. Going to my third Olympic Games as the flag bearer for Team Ireland now is just an incredible honour.
“I will be going for gold in Rio in the ring but I will also have the responsibility of helping to build a really positive environment for all Irish athletes. I could not be more excited about the next 100 days.”
OCI President Patrick Hickey said: “I am delighted to announce that our hugely talented boxer Paddy Barnes has been selected as Team Ireland’s flag bearer for the Opening Ceremony.
“Paddy already has two Olympic medals to his name, and he’s a reigning Commonwealth Games champion. So we have high hopes of him bringing home another medal.
“More importantly, his commitment to the cause of Irish boxing and Irish sport makes him a role model for aspiring young athletes in Ireland and the natural choice as Ireland’s flag bearer.”
Barnes, Brendan Irvine, Michael Conlan, David Oliver Joyce, Steven Donnelly and Joe Ward have qualified for Rio.
Irish male and female boxing will be aiming for further places in the three remaining qualifiers in May, June and July before the 2016 Games begin on August 5.