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Al-Rashidi gets his Olympic moment with the flag of Kuwait

Al-Rashidi gets his Olympic moment with the flag of Kuwait

TOKYO (AFP) – Abdullah Al-Rashidi pulled the Kuwaiti flag from his pocket and draped it over his shoulders, a wide smile shining under his coarse mustache.

The 58-year-old Olympian wrapped the black, red, green and white cloth around his face, kissed a corner and raised his arms before waving to the crowd.

Olympic protocols prohibit athletes from displaying their country’s flag prior to awarding medals.

Rashidi did not care. He was not recognized as a Kuwaiti athlete at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro five years ago and was eager to honor his country after winning his second straight bronze medal in clay pigeon shooting.

“I am very happy to see the flag of Kuwait and my second Olympic medal,” Al-Rashidi said after the skeet final at the Tokyo Games on Monday.

Al-Rashidi was a hit in the skeet squad in Rio five years ago, waving his arms and pumping his fists to work on the predominantly Brazilian crowd. The three-time world champion who trains the Falcons in his spare time made his first Olympic final and thrived on the sport’s biggest stage, bringing fan energy to the bronze medal.

After winning the bronze medal in Rio, Al-Rashidi raised his arms in the air, fell to his knees and kissed the ground. He stood and threw his hat in the air as the audience chanted in Portuguese: “Ole, ole, ole, mustache!

The only disappointment: he was considered an independent athlete, not a Kuwaiti.

The Kuwait National Olympic Committee was suspended by the International Olympic Committee due to government interference, so Al-Rashidi and his companions at the Rio Games were forced to compete as an independent team. It meant no team uniform – he was wearing an Arsenal soccer jersey – and no Kuwait flag or national anthem if someone won the gold medal.

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Part of the shine was removed from his first Olympic medal, as Rashidi climbed onto 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 flag of Kuwait.

Al-Rashidi qualified for the Tokyo Games and had the added benefit of having his 28-year-old son Talal join in.

Confronting bowlers in his half-life, Al-Rashidi kept his hand steady, scoring 46 of his 60 goals to comfortably win his second consecutive bronze medal. It was a crowd favorite again, even with the limited number of fans allowed inside the Asaka shooting range waving to the crowd and pumping their fists.

Al-Rashidi couldn’t contain himself on the medal stand – he even raised his fist after the US national anthem – and spent 10 minutes posing for photos with the small Kuwaiti delegation that looked as elated as him with his medal.

“Everyone loves me because I am old and they see me at the Olympics,” he said.

It turns out that the bronze goes well with the Kuwaiti flag.

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More from AP: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports