Tokyo 2020: Team GB flagbearer Mohamed Sbihi tastes Tokyo elation and frustration in unforgettable 24 hours
Rio 2016 champion Mohamed Sbihi and the rest of the men's eight failed to progress to the final - just hours after making history by being the first Muslim to act as Team GB flagbearer at an Olympic Games during the Tokyo Opening Ceromony. Sbihi and his teammates now enter Wednesday's repechage looking to make amends.
'A real honour' - Hannah Mills and Moe Sbihi on becoming Team GB flag bearers
Over the course of less than 24 hours, rower Mohamed Sbihi experienced the elation and then the frustration that only an Olympics can provide.
He made history on Friday night as the first Muslim to carry the British flag at an opening ceremony, but the following morning was struggling to come to terms with the men's eight not only failing to book a place in the final, but finishing last in their heat.
It does not signal the end for Sbihi and his teammates, who now enter Wednesday's repechage looking to make amends, but it is a significant blow for one of the rowing team's brightest medal prospects.
Flag bearers Hannah Mills and Mohamed Sbihi of Team Great Britain leads their team out during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium
Image credit: Eurosport
He explained: "It's not the performance that we wanted. We want to say it's not a true reflection of ourselves and the way we've been training, but ultimately Wednesday will prove that.
"That is a disappointing result for the nine of us in the boat and hopefully not a true representation of what we can do within this boat. It's not a great start to our Olympic campaign.
The quick turnaround from opening ceremony to opening race certainly raises questions, although the men's eight was only in action because of a last-minute juggle of the programme that saw all races on Monday brought forward because of the typhoon that is threatening to hit Tokyo.
Sbihi had joked that at last, in his third Games, the schedule would allow him to attend the opening ceremony, and despite the late change to the programme, it would have been hard to give up the honour of carrying the flag. And the 33-year-old, who already has Olympic gold and bronze medals to his name, insists that the opening ceremony was not a factor in the morning struggles.
He said: "Whatever I did last night didn't impact that. It wasn't just me that was rowing badly in that crew. We as a collective did something very bad and very wrong. We didn't hook onto a rhythm that we know we are capable of, regardless of whether I walked or didn't walk last night.
"It was a quick turnaround yes, but I was in bed very early. The Olympic ceremony takes place and it goes on for a very long time. People were still walking in the stadium by the time I was in bed. Regardless of what I did last night, that is not good enough as a rowing performance."
Sbihi joked that the struggles in the heat had somewhat tainted the experience of being flag bearer, although that will be rectified if the crew can turn things around in the repechage.
But there was also a steely determination apparent when he reflected on what it meant to have been chosen.
"It was a huge honour, I've been on cloud nine for the last few days," added Sbihi, who is able to train full-time and benefit from world class facilities, technology, coaching and support teams thanks to National Lottery funding – which has never been more important in getting her to the start line after a turbulent year.
"I still don't feel like I walked into the stadium last night. It was a very cool moment to share with Hannah (Mills) but ultimately, I'm sure Team GB won't mind me saying this, we're here to win medals, I'm not here to carry a flag. That, today, didn't get me any closer to that job."
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