Winter Olympics: I feel very honoured and privileged to carry the flag, says Eve Muirhead
Eve Muirhead and Dave Ryding are sharing flag-bearing duties for Great Britain at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics in the famous 'Bird's Nest' National Stadium.
Muirhead, a bronze medallist at Sochi 2014, and Ryding, who made history last month in Kitzbuehel as the first British athlete to win an alpine skiing World Cup, are both preparing to compete in their fourth Olympics.
Former world champion Muirhead returns with a relatively experienced rink to her fourth Games, but is convinced all three British curling teams – including Edinburgh mixed doubles pair Bruce Mouat and Jennifer Dodds – can make it on to the podium.
Mouat and Dodds, the defending doubles world champions, have made a strong start to their event, while Mouat's men's team are reigning world silver medallists and strongly fancied for a medal.
Muirhead said: "Bruce and Jen have made a fantastic start and they're definitely going in there as the world champions with form, so I don't see why there's anything to stop us coming away with three medals.
"Of course it's going to be tough, but we know Bruce and his men's team are I think the best in the world right now, so they'll fight for medals and we are also capable of beating any team in the world."
Muirhead admitted having plenty of doubts over her ability to reach a fourth Games, having missed out on automatic qualification via the World Championships and needing to fight through a nail-biting qualifying tournament to secure her place.
But she said the challenges would make her participation in Beijing - and the honour of carrying the flag – all the more memorable.
Muirhead added: "To be asked to be one of the flagbearers at the opening ceremony is honestly a dream come true and something I never thought I would do.
"I never thought I'd go to a fourth Olympics either. It's definitely been a rollercoaster to get here. I feel very honoured and privileged to carry the flag and it will be a memory I'll never forget."
Ryding said he was "beyond proud" to be afforded the joint honour, and is relishing the experience of taking part in his first ceremony given schedules that have ordinarily dictated his late arrival at the Games.
The 35-year-old is aiming to make more history in Beijing, and is driven by the desire to win an Olympic medal for his assistant-coach Alain Baxter, who finished in the bronze medal position in Salt Lake City in 2002 before being controversially stripped for his use of a nasal inhaler.
"I still remember watching him win the medal and it ignited something in me, whether it was passion or excitement," recalled Ryding.
"Whatever I achieve, Alain for me will be above, because that is how you perceive your heroes. If he didn't do what he did in Salt Lake, who knows if I would have had the drive to do what I did in Kitzbuehel.
"What went on after that was crazily unfortunate and he was proven innocent. If I were to get a medal, the best thing I could do would be to cut it in half and give him half of it."
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