Tennis fans would recognize that smile anywhere! Brazilian Gustavo Kuerten emerged with the torch and ran into the stadium, a worthy replacement for soccer legend Pele who pulled out due to illness.
We had already been treated to four Olympic flagbearers that evening including Great Britain’s Andy Murray, Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki, Spain’s Rafael Nadal, and Luxenbourg’s Gilles Muller.
Then came the end of the ceremony and former world no.1 and three-time French Open winner, “Guga,” as his fans call him, got the second chance to hold the Olympic flame, to the delight of the crowd. He also carried the torch in the 2004 Olympics, through the streets of Rio de Janeiro, for the Athens Games. In addition to those Games, he participated in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and made it to the Quarterfinals there. He was the first Brazilian to win three Grand Slam titles.
It was a proud moment for both tennis and the host country for the Olympics, Brazil, the first South American destination to host the Games. Kuerton is hoping the achievement will inspire the people of his country.
“I never saw the Brazilian people so pessimistic, so sad, so bored,” he told The Telegraph.
“I think the Olympics will bring this alive again, the brightening of being Brazilian. We are able to (have) success. Even in the worst crisis, we are able to have hopes. We are losing our hopes. This will be the main achievement the Olympics will give us, for sure.”
He was also dismayed by the amount of tennis players withdrawing from this year’s Games.
“My experience of the Olympics was great,” he said, according to the Daily Mail. “As a Brazilian, we all dream of the Olympics. We wanted to be part of it. If a player feels he has a real chance of getting a medal, he will play.
“Sometimes it’s intimidating and then you prefer to put yourself in other positions, but it’s very worthwhile. You can relate to lots of other athletes from different countries.”