The two Aussie champions have been selected as the Birmingham 2022 Australian Team opening ceremony flagbearers.
Three-time hockey gold medallist Eddie Ockenden and decorated six-time squash representative Rachael Grinham have today been named as Australia’s dual flagbearers for tomorrow night’s Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony.
It is only the second time since Australia’s first flagbearer, rowing legend Bobby Pearce led the Australian team out in Hamilton, Canada for the 1930 British Empire Games, that there have been co-flag bearers – Ockenden and Grinham joining cycling twins Sal and Remo Sansonetti (Edmonton in 1978).
Tasmanian Ockenden, 35 and Queenslander, Grinham, 45 were revealed by Australian Team Chef de Mission, Petria Thomas OAM in the presence of their Excellencies Governor-General, the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd) and Mrs Linda Hurley and in front of over 300 team members inside the Birmingham University Athletes Village.
Ockenden follows in the footsteps of another Kookaburras co-captain Mark Knowles, who carried the flag four years ago on the Gold Coast as hockey’s second flag-bearer while Grinham – an eight-time Games medallist – two of them gold – becomes the first squash player in the history of the Games to carry the flag.
The Hobart born co-captain of the Kookaburras, Ockenden is walking in Knowles’ shoes in more ways than one.
He joins the former Australian skipper as only the second Australian hockey player to go to four Commonwealth Games.
He can also join Knowles as the sport’s only four-time gold medallist in Birmingham if the Kookaburras can keep their unbeaten record intact.
Grinham has been synonymous with the sport of squash from a teenager who travelled seven days a week from Toowoomba to Brisbane to train before becoming one of the sport’s all-time greatest players – making her Games debut in 1998 in Kuala Lumpur as a 21-year-old, winning silver with Robyn Cooper in the women’s doubles – going on to play in 2002, 2006, 2014 and 2018.
It was a sister act at the Melbourne 2006 Games when Rachael paired with sister Natalie to win gold in the women’s doubles.
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Thomas made the announcement, flanked by three previous flag bearers, Damian Brown (weightlifting) Manchester 2002; Sharelle McMahon (netball) Delhi 2010 and Anna Meares OAM (cycling) Glasgow 2014.
Ockenden and Grinham won the honour from a who’s who of Commonwealth Games member sports who supplied over 25 nominations to Commonwealth Games Australia and Thomas, a nine-time gold medal winning swimmer from three Games herself, took great pride and privilege in making the final decision.
“In the end we have chosen men’s hockey co-captain Eddie Ockenden who will be attending his fourth Commonwealth Games and is a three-time defending gold medallist who is looking to win a fourth gold,” said Thomas.
“And decorated female squash player Rachael Grinham – an eight-time Games medallist including two gold in 2006 and 2002 – who will be attending her sixth Commonwealth Games.
“These decisions are not just based on how many Games they have been too either – they have to be model athletes and both Eddie and Rachael certainly tick that box.
“And although we don’t actually have team captains, they do become our unofficial team captains so it is a great honour.
“And how thankful are we that we get the opportunity to have a male and a female to carry the flag together.
“It is never an easy decision and I consulted with my fellow team executive members and that was really useful to get other opinions as well.
“I know Eddie and Rachael will both agree it’s a massive honour to carry the flag.
“We saw the dual flag bearers in Tokyo as well which was for the first time and so often there is more than one stand-out athlete and its great to have that equal representation as well.
“It’s a landmark Games too with a record number of female events and actually more female team members in this team than males.
“These choices come with a lot of responsibility – this is a big one –and I know we have chosen two fantastic athletes who have shown great commitment to the Commonwealth movement.
“And I know they will be fitting representatives for the team.”
Thomas singled out the Governor General David Hurley and Mrs Hurley as great supporters of the Australian Commonwealth Games team.
“They have hosted us twice at Admiralty House in Sydney and there will be another function in Canberra when we get home as well. They are both keen to be here and support the team as well,” said Thomas.
Australia’s Flag Bearers
Hamilton 1930 – Bobby Pearce (rowing)
London 1934 – Noel Ryan (swimming)
Sydney 1938 – Dunc Gray (cycling)
Auckland 1950 – Mervyn Wood LVO MBE QPM (rowing)
Vancouver 1954 – Dick Garrard OBE (wrestling)
Cardiff 1958 – Ivan Lund (fencing)
Perth 1962 – Tony Madigan (boxing)
Kingston 1966 – David Dickson (swimming)
Edinburgh 1970 – Pam Kilborn AM MBE (athletics)
Christchurch 1974 – Michael Wenden AM MBE (swimming)
Edmonton 1978 – Sal Sansonetti & Remo Sansonetti (cycling)
Brisbane 1982 – Rick Mitchell (athletics)
Edinburgh 1986 – Michael Turtur AO (cycling)
Auckland 1990 – Lisa Curry AO MBE (swimming)
Victoria 1994 – Ian Hale (shooting)
Kuala Lumpur 1998 – Kieren Perkins OAM (swimming)
Manchester 2002 – *Damian Brown (weightlifting)
Melbourne 2006 – Jane Saville (athletics)
Delhi 2010 – *Sharelle McMahon (netball)
Glasgow 2014 – *Anna Meares OAM (cycling)
Gold Coast 2018 – Mark Knowles OAM (hockey)
Birmingham 2022 – Eddie Ockenden (hockey), Rachael Grinham (squash)
* In attendance in Birmingham