TOKYO (July 19, 2021) – On Monday, the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) announced that three-time Olympic team member in basketball Miranda Ayim and co-captain of Canada’s men’s rugby sevens team Nathan Hirayama will be Team Canada’s flag bearers for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony. The news was unveiled in a special video from The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada.
In a year when Canadians embraced the spirit of teamwork and joined together to face generation-defining challenges, today’s announcement marks two important firsts for Team Canada. Tokyo 2020 is the first summer Games where an athlete representing a team sport has been named as Canada’s Opening Ceremony flag bearer. It also is the first time that two athletes will march with the Canadian flag at a summer Games Opening Ceremony.
“Seeing two tremendous leaders like Miranda and Nathan now ready to guide the way into the Opening Ceremony for Team Canada is something incredibly special,” said Eric Myles, COC Chief Sport Officer. “From their combined 28 years representing Canada, to their incredible performances, to carrying the maple leaf at the Opening Ceremony, they stand as testament to what Glory From Anywhere is all about. Our delegation of 370 athletes, the largest for Canada and the most teams qualified since 1984, has formed a unique bond through the collective resilience it has shown, and when Miranda and Nathan proudly carry our flag, it will be a celebration of the long road travelled to Tokyo by not only Team Canada, but athletes around the world.”
Tokyo 2020 will be the third and final Olympic Games for Ayim, who made her Olympic debut at London 2012 and announced she would be retiring post-Tokyo. The Canada Basketball veteran, who has been representing Canada internationally for 15 years, was also a part of the Canadian team that captured gold on home soil at the TORONTO 2015 Pan American Games. Ayim and the women’s basketball team, who currently sit fourth in the FIBA Women’s World Rankings, will vie for Canada’s first-ever medal in women’s basketball. In her final professional season with Basket Landes, Ayim helped the team win its first French League title in May 2021.
“I feel incredibly honoured to lead Team Canada alongside Nathan into the Opening Ceremony and to be representing not only my fellow athletes of Team Canada, but also the greater Team Canada: our nation,” said Ayim. “The past year and a half demanded a high level of teamwork and Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast demonstrated togetherness, camaraderie and sacrifice — true team spirit.”
Hirayama, who will be making his Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020, has been a key member of the Canadian sevens teams since joining the team in 2006 as an 18-year-old. He has competed in all three Pan American Games to include rugby sevens, winning two gold and one silver, and in three Commonwealth Games. This will be the first time Canada has a men’s rugby sevens team at the Olympic Games.
“I feel hugely honoured to be nominated to be the flag bearer alongside Miranda,” said Hirayama. “I’ve been watching the Olympics for my entire life and understand the honour and privilege that comes with being the flag bearer. It’s something that I’ve never even dreamt of. I’m extremely excited to get to Tokyo with my team. We’ve been working hard together for a long time and can’t wait for our opportunity to show the world what we can do.”
Despite this being Team Canada’s largest team since 1984, Ayim and Hirayama will be leading a smaller contingent than Canadians are used to seeing at the Opening Ceremony due to the strict COVID protocols outlined in the Tokyo 2020 Playbooks. The playbooks state that athletes can only arrive in the village five days before they compete, which means less athletes are in the village and those who are, will be on the verge of competing. For Team Canada, this emphasizes the symbolism of Ayim and Hirayama’s role as flag bearers and the spirit they embody as team players.
“I have no doubts that when I look back at my experience as Chef de Mission that the calls that I made to Miranda and Nathan will be among my highlights,” said Team Canada’s Tokyo 2020 Chef de Mission, Marnie McBean. “Not only are they both players to watch here in Tokyo, they are leaders to watch in the future, regardless of whether they are on or off the field. Chosen in part for their careers of thoughtful leadership, they exemplify the spirit of this Team Canada. They are extremely talented individuals who invest themselves in building up their teammates and their communities. They both have an awareness of past generations, and ambitions for the next ones.”
Ayim and Hirayama follow in the footsteps of two-time Olympic champion Rosie MacLennan who carried the flag at the Rio 2016 Opening Ceremony.
A full list of Canadian flag bearers can be found here.
Team Canada’s Flag Bearer Selection Committee is composed of one athlete representative, selected by the COC Athletes’ Commission, Inaki Gomez; Tokyo 2020 Chef de Mission, Marnie McBean; COC President, Tricia Smith; COC CEO and Secretary General David Shoemaker; COC Executive Director of Sport, (who is a non-voting member), Eric Myles; and Senator Marty Deacon, a representative of the Team Selection Committee. The COC does not disclose the number of athletes nominated nor the details of the selection process.
Story and Photo: Olympic.ca