Rocky's Mark Knowles named Commonwealth games flagbearer
KOOKABURRAS captain and one of Rockhampton's favourite sporting sons, Mark Knowles, has sensationally pipped Sally Pearson for the flagbearer honour at tomorrow night's Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony.
Gold Coaster Pearson, competing in her fourth Games, was overlooked in favour of the popular Knowles, who will retire after this event, also his fourth Commonwealth Games.
Knowles, 33, known as one of the nice guys of Australian sport, is a hockey legend, having earnt more than 300 caps for the Kookaburras in a career including Olympic gold in Athens in 2004 and gold at the past three Commonwealth Games.
Games officials have hinted Pearson may still feature prominently in proceedings on Opening Night, but she had been considered an overwhelming favourite for what other Opening Ceremony flagbearers yesterday described as "the biggest honour you can have".
Knowles first picked up a hockey stick at age four, and pushed around a paper ball made out of a Morning Bulletin newspaper.
From then on, he lived and breathed hockey.
Throughout his younger years, Knowles played competitively at Rockhampton's Kalka Shades under the tutorship of local hockey coaches including his parents, Barbara and Ryan, and hockey patron Col Hamilton.
During a trip to the Sydney Olympics in 2000, Knowles became besotted with the big lights and competition of the games.
Months before announcing his retirement, Knowles led his team to victory in the Odisha Men's Hockey World League Final in Bhubaneswar in a nail-biting 2-1 clash against India.
The win had once again cemented his team as number one in the world, and Knowles himself as the world's number one captain.
After an illustrious career, debuting for the Kookaburras in 2004, Knowles began working with up-and-coming athletes at the Queensland Academy of Sport.
There, Knowles takes the next generation of athletes through high performance programs every day.
He also developed a coaching business with fellow Rockhampton product Jamie Dwyer.
He had considered retirement after the Rio Olympics, but pushed on for one more major campaign, which will see him rewarded with the honour of leading the Australian team on to Carrara Stadium in front of 35,000 fans tomorrow night.
Former Australian flagbearers Lisa Curry-Kenny and Kieran Perkins yesterday spoke of what they called one of sport's ultimate honours.
"It's the biggest honour you can have," said Curry-Kenny, who carried the flag at the Closing Ceremony in Brisbane as swimming's new golden girl, before taking the flag at the Opening Ceremony in Auckland eight years later.
Perkins, who held the honour in Kuala Lumpur in 1998, said it was "beyond the ultimate".
Former 400m athletics star Rick Mitchell, who carried the flag in Brisbane's opening ceremony 36 years ago, said it still gave him tingles to think about walking into the stadium on opening night proudly carrying the Australian flag.
"The feeling was beyond goosebumps," he said.
"It was one of the surreal moments that you never forget."
Hear from Mark's mother, Barbara Knowles, about Rockhampton's bid to bring the FIH Oceania Cup 2019 to the Beef Capital: Page 29.