Al-Rashidi gets his Olympic moment with Kuwaiti flag
TOKYO (AP) — Abdullah Al-Rashidi pulled a Kuwaiti flag from his pocket and draped it over his shoulders, a huge smile beaming beneath his bristly mustache.
The 58-year-old seven-time Olympian wrapped the black, red, green and white cloth around his face, kissed the corner and raised his arms before waving to the crowd.
Olympic protocols forbid athletes from displaying their country’s flag before the medal presentation.
Al-Rashidi didn’t care. He was not recognized as a Kuwaiti athlete at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics five years ago and he couldn’t wait to honor his country after winning a second straight skeet-shooting bronze.
“I am happy too much to see my Kuwaiti flag and second Olympic medal,” Al-Rashidi said after Monday’s skeet final at the Tokyo Games.
Al-Rashidi was a big hit on the Rio skeet range five years ago, waving his arms and pumping his fists to work up the mostly-Brazilian crowd. Shooting in his first Olympic final, the three-time world champion who trains falcons in his off time thrived on the sport’s biggest stage, riding the fans’ energy to a bronze medal.
After winning the bronze in Rio, Al-Rashidi raised his arms in the air, dropped to his knees and kissed the ground. He rose and threw his hat in the air as the crowd chanted in Portuguese: “Ole, ole, ole, Mustache!”
The only disappointment: He was considered an independent athlete, not a Kuwaiti.
Kuwait’s national Olympic committee was suspended by the IOC for government interference so Al-Rashidi and his compatriots at the Rio Games had to compete as part of an independent team. That meant no team uniform — he wore the jersey of the English soccer club Arsenal — no Kuwaiti flag nor national anthem should anyone win gold.
Some of the shine taken off his first Olympic medal, Al-Rashidi stood on the podium with his head down during the ceremony.
“I didn’t like seeing the Olympic flag,” he said. “I needed to see my flag, the Kuwaiti flag.”
Al-Rashidi qualified for the Tokyo Games and had the added bonus of being joined by his son, 28-year-old trap shooter Talal.
Competing against shooters half his age, Al-Rashidi kept a steady hand, hitting 46 of 60 targets to comfortably earn his second straight bronze medal. He was again a crowd favorite even with the limited fans allowed inside Asaka Shooting Range, waving to the crowd and pumping his fists.
Al-Rashidi couldn’t contain himself on the medal stand — he even pumped his fist after the American national anthem — and spent 10 minutes posing for photos with the small Kuwaiti delegation that seemed just as thrilled about his medal as he was.
“Everybody love me because I am old and see me in Olympic Games,” he said.
Turns out, bronze goes great with the Kuwaiti flag.
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