A phone call, followed by an impromptu meeting request were
the first breadcrumbs that led to Paralympic champion Brad Ness learning that
he would be honoured with carrying the Australian flag at the opening ceremony
of the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games.
Last Sunday, the wheelchair basketball great was summoned
to the apartment of the APC’s media and communications manager for an urgent
Fearing that he or one of his Australian Rollers
teammates had un-willingly upset the Paralympic applecart, he instead opened
the door of the 17th floor condo, to be greeted by Chef de Mission,
Kate McLoughlin – who wearing a broad smile, informed the 41 year-old that he
would be leading Australia’s team out into the Maracana Stadium on Wednesday
"They sent me up to the penthouse to see Tim, and I
thought I was in trouble, or that one of the boys had posted something they
shouldn’t of,” Ness said. "I got up there and the door was locked, and when I
knocked on it I was thinking oh no what’s going on here, and then when it
opened up and I saw the camera and the APC backdrop I sought of knew what was
going on and I was a bit shocked to be honest.”
Rarely one lost for words, the significance of being heralded
flag bearer transcended the glittering career of the five-time Paralympian. He
admitted it was a feeling unlike anything he’d experienced before in wheelchair
basketball. A career that has spanned over 20 years and seen the Wagin born product
win Paralympic and World Championship gold, on top of meeting the love of his
life (wife Giovanna) whilst playing professionally in Italy.
"It’s unbelievable, I thought I’d experienced everything
in basketball – from winning gold, to losing a final, to not making selection
and then to this, it’s not bizarre, it’s just hard to put into words,” he said.
"It’s not something that you set out to do and to have it
actually bestowed on you, and I’m a bit humbled about it – I just hope that the rest of the Australian team
can get behind me and enjoy the moment as much as I do.”
In selecting Ness, McLoughlin said that a number of characteristics
had supported his cause.
"He is talented athlete, a determined competitor, and a
fiercely patriotic Aussie.”
When the time comes for Ness to enter the arena, ahead of
a proud Australian contingent, he believes he’ll be hard to miss.
"Carrying the flag at the Opening Ceremony is going to
make me feel 10 feet tall and bullet-proof.”
The Rio Paralympic Games run from September 7-18.
Photo - Australian Paralympic Committee