Shamoli says carrying flag “a heartfelt experience”

Shamoli Ray and Rene Philippe Kouassi were among the 207 athletes who carried their national flags at the Closing Ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

One of just seven Bangladeshi athletes in five sports at Rio 2016, 22-year-old Shamoli was given a Tripartite invitation to the Games, becoming the first female archer – and second archer – from the nation to shoot at the Olympics.

“It was a great moment and honour for me getting the chance to bear the national flag at the Closing Ceremony in Rio," Shamoli said.

Carrying the country's flag for an athlete is one of the greatest platform ever in which they can represent their country.

“For me, it was a heartfelt moment and I feel proud for getting the chance to carrying the national flag as an archer. Really, the moment is fixed in my memory and I will never forget it.“

Before Rio, Shamoli competed in the individual recurve women’s event at the Belek 2013 and Copenhagen 2015 World Archery Championships, as well as Asian Grand Prix, Asian Games, and Asian Championships since 2013.

After not making the cut at her first worlds in 2013, Ray put in the work to improve ahead of 2015. She qualified 80th at her second champs – but fell to Japan’s Saori in the first round.

For her Olympic debut in 2016, the Bangladeshi woman was 53rd – of 64 competitors –after the ranking round and lost in the first elimination match, 6-0, to Mexico’s Bayardo.

At 36, Rene Philippe Kouassi was the eldest of an Ivorian delegation to Rio of 12 athletes in six sports. He represented the nation in the men’s individual archery event, where he said “he had nothing to lose at his age”.

In the London 2012 Olympic Games, Rene had become Ivory Coast’s first Olympic archer. In London, he seeded 59th and lost his first match to sixth-seeded Gael Prevost, of France.

At Rio 2016, he who lives and trains in France made it two better, qualifying 57th, but lost once again in the first round against another Frenchman, Valladont, who later became Olympic silver medallist.

The Games were not over yet for Kouassi who was delighted to be his nation's flag bearer for the second time after London.

“It is an honour that is done to archery for the work we do at the national level and through our participation in various archery events in Africa and around the world,” President of Ivorian Archery Federation Moise M. Essis said.

“We are very proud of the mark of consideration shown to us and we will continue on this momentum to maintain trust.”

The Rio 2016 Games were exceptional for Ivory Coast as they won gold and bronze in taekwondo, a historic moment for the nation that had not had a medal for 34 years.

“I enjoyed living this moment with my athlete friends,” Kouassi said of the Closing Ceremony experience. “We were all welded although coming from different disciplines.”