THE Scots athlete who will have the honour of carrying the Saltire during the Opening Ceremony of the Commonwealth Games was named today as Euan Burton, the champion judo player.
The decision to select the gold medal-winning judoka, as competitors are known, was made by his fellow athletes and was announced at a Team reception where Burton was presented with the flag by Scotland’s greatest Olympian and double Commonwealth Games gold medalist Sir Chris Hoy.
Euan Burton was selected by a team vote from a final shortlist of four athletes including Linda Clement (Hockey), Jennifer McIntosh (shooting) and Alex Marshall (lawn bowls) who will each walk out immediately behind Burton and act as deputy flag bearers.
Today Euan Burton said: “It’s a massive honour and it’s a big responsibility. We’re often in this relatively isolated judo bubble so for Scottish atheletes of all 17 sports to nominate me as a flag bearer is huge. It doesn’t get more special than this for me because it is a home Games. It’s also at the very end of my career, and I’m now involved in coaching a number of guys in the team, which adds a completely different dynamic. There’s also the fact my wife will be competing for England, and to add being flag bearer on top of that is incredible.” Burton is married to the English judo champion Gemma Gibbons.
The judoka said that since he was first told the news and sworn to secrecy last week he had gone onto YouTube to relive Sir Chris Hoy’s experience as flag bearer during the London Olympic Games in 2012. He explained: “I probably shouldn’t say this, but I’ve been on YouTube a couple of times just to relive the moment Chris walked out in front of us in 2012 to take a few tips from that. I’ll walk out holding the flag with enormous proud and I’m sure the support we will get will be like nothing any of us have ever experienced before.
“I remember walking in behind Chris Hoy in London and experiencing that spine tingling moment when we entered the stadium. To think that I’m going to be at the front of Scotland’s largest ever team and hopefully our most successful ever just blows your mind.”
Sir Chris Hoy who presented the flag to Burton this afternoon said: “I’ve been a team-made of Euan’s over the years; he’s a great ambassador for his sport and for Scotland, so it makes complete sense that he’s been voted by his peers to carry the flag in the opening ceremony. I don’t think there’s a greater accolade than to be recognised by your peers because these are the guys who do the same thing as you; they know all about the hard work, the commitment, training and lifestyle that you have to adopt to become successful in your post.”
Euan Burton has competed in the past two Olympic games but Glasgow will be his first Commonwealth Games with judo. He was the reserve and training partner for Graeme Randall at the Manchester Commonwealth Games when Randall won the gold medal. Last year Burton won the gold medal at the 2013 European Open and is set to compete on 26 July.
Today Jon Doig, Chef de Mission of Team Scotland said: “Euan is one of Scotland’s most successful, distinquished and well-respected athletes, and I am delighted that he has been selected by his fellow team members to lead us out at our home games. Euan has been at the top of his sport for a number of years and with judo making its return to the Games for the first time since 2002 he will have the chance to make his debut for Team Scotland in Glasgow. Judo was our most successful sport at the Manchester Games with ten medals and we are all looking forward to seeing them complete once again.”
The exact manner in which Burton will weild the flag, either assisted by a flag holder worn around the waist or flourished free style is not yet known, however Sir Matthew Pinsent, who won four consecutive Olympic gold medals and who has taken on the role of flagbearer offered his own advice: “You’ve got to ditch the flagholder and go free style. You want to be able to really wave it about. Oh and don’t drop it.”