A young showjumper from Dorset in England is to be the British team’s flag bearer for the Opening Ceremony of the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China, on Saturday.
Jake Saywell, 17, is the only equestrian athlete in the 33-strong British team. He won a secret ballot for the honour from 12 other nominees, during a reception hosted by the British Consul at the Intercontinental Hotel in Nanjing.
The teenager told Sportsbeat it was a shock when his name was called out by Team GB chef de mission Sarah Winckless.
“I never expected it at all because there are so many great athletes here so it was a great surprise and I feel very honoured and privileged to be voted by my fellow teammates and friends and it just feels great.
“Equestrian isn’t the biggest sport here but it just shows that everyone is noticing it now and we have had some very good results in the last Olympics and Europeans so the only way is up,” Saywell said.
“This has given me a big boost now and I just can’t wait to get going.”
Equestrian sport is in the blood for the youngster, who is a member of the British Equestrian Federation’s World Class Development Programme. His grandfather, Mike, competed in the showjumping at the 1972 Olympics in Munich.
There are 30 athletes from 30 nations competing in the jumping competitions, one of 28 sports at this second edition of the summer Youth Olympic Games, which are held every four years.
The first horse inspection on Thursday was the first opportunity for riders to see the horses who would be up for ballot.
Coincidentally, there are 15 boys and 15 girls taking part, and 15 nations are competing at the Games for the first time.
The new countries are Cayman Islands, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Iran, Ireland, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Malaysia, The Netherlands, Paraguay, Senegal and Sweden.
They join riders from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Egypt, Great Britain, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Italy, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand, Qatar, South Africa, Uruguay and Zimbabwe, whose countries were represented at the previous Games in Singapore.
• Three athletes who were to compete at the Games have been pulled from the competition because they are from Ebola risk areas in West Africa.
The equestrian competition is unaffected, but the Games Organising Committee has advised that athletes from the affected region will not compete in contact sports (affecting two participants) or in the pool (one athlete).
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Nanjing Organising Committee said today they had been “reassured by the health authorities that there have been no suspected cases and that the risk of infection is extremely unlikely”.
Athletes from the region will be subject to regular temperature and physical assessment throughout the period, they said.
“We regret that due to this issue some young athletes may have suffered twice, both from the anguish caused by the outbreak in their home countries and by not being able to compete in the Youth Olympic Games,” the IOC and the Games OC said.
“The athletes who have not been able to participate will also receive in the near future an invitation from the IOC and the organizing committee to come to Nanjing to take part in a sporting competition and to experience the welcoming atmosphere and spirit of the city and Jiangsu province.”