Tokyo 2020 flag bearers: Hesham Elshwikh and Liliane Mukobwankawe

Photo: Kyodo News

Hesham Elshwikh led the delegation of Egypt in the ‘PARAde of Athletes’ and Liliane Mukobwankawe had the distinct honour of carrying the Paralympic flag to represent Para athletes from all over the world at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony held at the Olympic Stadium at the Japanese capital on Tuesday night.

Elshwikh, who was the lone sitting volleyball athlete among the flag bearers of the 165 participating National Paralympic Committees at the parade of athletes, expressed his feelings before the ceremony.

“It’s a source of great pride. In this tournament I hope to achieve better than the bronze medal I won at Rio 2016.”
– Elshwikh

The Egypt captain is playing in his sixth consecutive Paralympic Games and is aiming to add another medal to his collection. He previously won two bronze medals from hard-earned five-set victories at Athens 2004 and Rio 2016.

The parade of athletes’ theme is ‘Winds of Change’. These winds are stirred up by the Paralympians who, throughout the pandemic, have continued to train in different manners, whether in their bedrooms, back gardens and training facilities. Now, they will challenge their personal limits at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

“I’m sorry that this pandemic affected the Paralympics, but I’m proud it was held in 2021. I hope the pandemic disappears,” Elshwikh said.

Photo of Paralympic flagbearers by OIS/Joe Toth

Moments after the parade of athletes, Rwanda captain Mukobwankawe emerged from the spotlight with five other athletes carrying the Paralympic Games flag.

“I am speechless. I am so happy and so excited. And I will never forget this moment.”
– Mukobwankawe

Mukobwankawe has a physical disability with her right leg due to a car accident when she was a child.

In 2007, she started with sitting volleyball at Gasabo Sitball team and became captain of the Rwandan national team at Rio 2016.

Since 2020, she is the vice president of the Rwanda Athletes Commission and a WPV Athletes Commission member.

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