This photo provided by the Kuwait Olympic Committee shows Kuwaiti athletes participating in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. – AFP

TOKYO: Swimmer Lara Dashti became Kuwait’s first female athlete to have ever lifted her country’s flag at an Olympic opening ceremony as she took part in the event alongside fellow men’s shooter Talal Al-Rashidi at the Tokyo 2020 Games on Friday. The illustrious sporting event has allowed two competitors to carry their nation’s flag in unison for the first time ever, breaking a decades-old tradition requiring a single flag bearer. Due to COVID-19 measures, spectators were banned from attending the event, which limited attendance to only state officials, including Japanese Emperor Naruhito and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach.

Speaking about the milestone, Dashti was quoted by Kuwait’s Olympic Committee as saying she was “overwhelmed with happiness” and that her feelings were “indescribable,” having reached the “pinnacle of joy and pleasure in a moment that will remain etched in memory.” Speaking for herself and on behalf of her female counterparts, Dashti said the women competitors felt a sense of responsibility and urgency at the games, where they hoped to do their absolute best.

Rashidi, meanwhile, described the endeavor as “historic,” adding “every Kuwaiti has the right to take pride in their country and their feeling of belonging to it.” The trap shooter, a 2018 world champion, two-time Asian Games gold medalist and 2012 Olympic Games competitor, felt “enthusiastic,” saying he looked forward to making an achievement for his country. To date, Kuwaitis have taken part in 12 Olympic Games, winning two bronze medals for the Gulf nation and one gold medal under the Olympic flag.

Fehaid Al-Deehani claimed all three – two bronze medals in the men’s shooting double trap at the Sydney 2000 Olympics and trap at the London 2012 Olympics, in addition to a gold medal at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, becoming the first independent athlete to ever achieve the feat. Kuwait Olympic Committee President Sheikh Fahad Naser Al-Sabah, who attended the ceremony, praised the organization as “outstanding.”

Athletes ‘ready’
Kuwait’s contingent of athletes participating in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games said yesterday they are fully “ready” to represent their country just as the marquee event overshadowed by the COVID pandemic opened in a city under a state of emergency because of a resurgence of new cases.

Men’s skeet shooter Abdullah Al-Rashidi, making his seventh appearance at the Olympic Games, said his participation this year came by mere happenstance as he was chosen to replace his fellow athlete Saud Al-Kanderi, who pulled out of the event for personal reasons, seeing the incident as a silver lining that would allow him to chalk up more accomplishments in his Olympic career.

Rashidi, who won bronze in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, promised to do everything in his power to propel his country to prominence in an event of such magnitude, simultaneously reaching another highlight of what has been a prolific Olympic odyssey.

Making his Olympic debut, Mansour Al-Rashidi, another Kuwaiti men’s skeet shooter, said “concentration” is key to excel in a precision sport such as shooting, adding that his recent participation in similar events, which include a pan-Arab contest in Egypt, had prepared him well for the showdown tomorrow. Expecting “stiff competition” ahead of the contest, Rashidi said he looked forward to delighting Kuwaiti fans and giving them a reason to celebrate, pointing out that he was ready to prove his mettle with some of the world’s best Olympic shooters.

Swimmers Lara Dashti and Abbas Qali both said they were equally prepared for their respective competitions on July 29-30. The Kuwaiti athletes haven been “well taken care of” ahead of the spectator-free Games in a bid to encourage them to put on career-defining performances, according to the country’s Olympic committee member Sheikh Jaber Al-Sabah. – KUNA