Mohamed Sbihi hopes his selection of British flag bearer will inspire young Muslims

Mohamed Sbihi hopes his selection as the first practicing Muslim to wear the Union Jack at an Olympic Games opening ceremony will inspire more children who share his faith to play sports.

Sbihi, who won gold in the coxless four-man rowing in Rio, will share the honor with reigning sailing champion Hannah Mills, following a directive from the International Olympic Committee in March.

In 2012, Sbihi, 33, became Britain’s first Muslim rower to compete in the Olympics, renouncing Ramadan through an approved charity avenue that saw him donate 1,800 meals to poor families in Morocco .

Sbihi said: “To be the first person of Muslim faith to have this role is a moment of great pride. Hopefully this will help start the process of involving young Muslim children in different types of sports, especially rowing.

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“I’ve always maintained that I was just an average kid who got lucky and got selected to be a rower. And here I am 18 years later with the honor of being a flag bearer. “

Sbihi, who was spotted for his sport at the age of 15, has first hand experience of the power of role models having had direct experience with the rise of Mo Farah who trained at St Mary from Twickenham where Sbihi studied during a sports scholarship.

“Hopefully this will have the impact I want, but this team has been incredibly diverse and inclusive for a long time – it’s not overnight,” Sbihi added.

“I was fortunate to have been to London and Rio when Mo (Farah) won his medals, and to see this achievement of a refugee who came to the country at a very young age and is a practicing Muslim, and this is someone I saw around me. university when I was a student, it’s amazing to be the first. “

Mills, 33, won gold in sailing in 2016 in the 470 women’s category alongside Saskia Clark, and will defend the title in Tokyo with new teammate Eilidh McIntyre.

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She said: “Being asked to carry the GB team flag at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games is not a phrase I would have thought to say.

“When (the head of mission) Mark (England) told me that I had been chosen it was completely overwhelming and when I had a moment to think about what that meant I was quite moved. .

“It is the greatest honor of my career and I hope more than ever that these Games can uplift our country and provide incredible sporting moments to inspire the nation.”

Mills and Sbihi are following in the footsteps of Sir Andy Murray, who carried the flag at the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympics.

They will each carry a flag in front of a GB team delegation of less than 30 athletes in a virtually empty Olympic stadium.

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