MADRID: Rafael Nadal is getting a second chance to be Spain’s Olympic flag-bearer.
Four years ago, Nadal was selected to carry the Spanish flag at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, but had to pull out of the games with an injury.
The honor went to NBA star Pau Gasol instead.
On Wednesday, Nadal was unanimously chosen as Spain’s flag-bearer for the games in Rio de Janeiro.
The announcement was made at an event in Madrid marking the 100-day countdown to the Aug. 5 opening ceremony at Rio’s Maracana Stadium.
Nadal posted a video on his official Twitter account thanking the Spanish Olympic Committee.
“This is a great honor,” said Nadal, winner of 14 Grand Slam titles.
“I’m very excited. I hope the games will be great and that the entire Spanish team can do well.”
Nadal won the singles gold medal in 2008 at the Beijing Games and also played in the 2004 Athens Olympics.
“Spanish sport was in debt to Nadal,” Spanish Olympic Committee president Alejandro Blanco said.
“He gave us a lot more than results.”
Nadal will lead a Spanish delegation of about 300 athletes in Rio.
The tennis player has been a longtime enthusiast of the Olympics and stayed with the other athletes in the Olympic Village at previous games.
“Without a doubt, Nadal represents a great athlete,” Spanish national team soccer coach Vicente del Bosque said.
The announcement came as Nadal defends himself against unproven doping allegations.
This week, he filed a lawsuit against a former French minister who accused him of doping and asked the International Tennis Federation to reveal all of his drug-test results to show that he is clean.
Blanco said recently that Nadal deserved to be the flag-bearer in Rio in part because of what he had to go through following the doping allegations made against him in France.
Roselyne Bachelot, former minister for health and sport, said on French television that Nadal’s seven-month injury hiatus in 2012 was “probably due to a positive doping test.”
Her remarks outraged Spaniards and prompted Nadal to take legal action to defend his “image as an athlete” and to keep “any public figure from making insulting or false allegations against an athlete without any evidence or foundation.”
Nadal also wrote a letter to ITF President David Haggerty asking for all of his drug-test results and blood profile records to be made public.
The former No. 1 also encouraged the federation to “start filing lawsuits” if there are wrongful accusations made against players.
Nadal struggled on the court last season and won only three tournaments, but got off to a much better start in 2016, winning the Monte Carlo Masters and the Barcelona Open. He will play at the Madrid Masters next week.
Nadal last won a Grand Slam in 2014 at the French Open.
Courtesy : Dawn News