Para snowboarder Ben Tudhope has been named Australia’s closing ceremony flag bearer in Beijing after a Games in which he broke through for his first Winter Paralympics medal.
Tudhope has won Australia’s only medal in Beijing, with a day to go, after claiming bronze in the snowboard cross at his third Games.
It is the 22-year-old’s second time as closing ceremony flag bearer after he previously had the honour as a 14-year-old in 2014.
“It’s amazing. To finish off my Beijing campaign with this achievement, to be Australian flag bearer is absolutely incredible,” Tudhope said.
“I couldn’t think of a better way to finish the Games after the bronze, after everything the team have been through, I’m proud to be an Aussie and I’m proud to be on this team.
“Back when I was 14 it was a true surprise, it was in the moment, it was about the experience.
“Being a bit bigger, learning what the Paralympic movement is about and knowing everything about the Aussie team and who have come before me as well, it’s a true honour this time.
“I know the true responsibility it actually means to actually hold the flag and to represent Australia.”
Chef de mission Kate McLoughlin informed Tudhope while the pair were on a gondola after watching the women’s slalom events on Saturday.
“I was truly surprised. It was not processing in my head that I was ever going to be flag bearer,” Tudhope said.
“She told me going up the gondola, we did an interview and it was one of her last questions: ‘Benny, can you be the flagbearer?’
“I was just in awe, I was shocked, I was surprised, I couldn’t really speak and it was just an amazing moment. Of course I said yes.”
McLoughlin said Tudhope “thoroughly deserved” the title of two-time flag bearer at the age of 22.
“Ben is an athlete who everyone has seen in the last couple of weeks is not only a champion athlete, obviously he’s done amazingly well, but he’s also a pretty amazing Australian,” McLoughlin said.
“The way he speaks, his gratitude to his coaches, his gratitude to his team, that family mentality, the way he feels so proud to be an Australian Paralympian.
“He’s mentioned the fact that he’s representing not only himself and his team but those that have gone before him.
“He exemplifies everything that’s amazing about Australian Paralympic sport and will be a pretty popular choice, I would have thought.”
Tudhope, who finished ninth in banked slalom, was Australia’s co-captain alongside outgoing para alpine skier Melissa Perrine.
Australia’s campaign finishes on Sunday when Mitch Gourley, Josh Hanlon, Patrick Jensen and sighted guide Amelia Hodgson take on the men’s slalom events.