MADRID – Basketball star Pau Gasol was on Friday named as the Spanish team’s flag-bearer at the Olympics in place of tennis star Rafael Nadal, who withdrew from the London Games with a knee injury.
“The Executive Committee of the Spanish Olympic Committee … unanimously agreed today to choose Pau Gasol as the flag-bearer of the Spanish delegation at the opening ceremeony of London 2012,” the Spanish Olympic Committee (COE) said in a statement.
The 32-year-old Los Angeles Lakers centre is one of the big stars of the NBA.
He told his Twitter followers that he was “very happy to be Spain’s flag-bearer. One of the happiest moments of my career.”
Defending champion Nadal dropped out of the Games on Thursday, stating he was not in shape to compete and calling it one of the saddest days of his career.
The world number three congratulated his good friend Gasol.
“Congratulations @paugasol I’m so glad you’re the standard-bearer! a reference and a example! A big hug and enjoy the moment! You deserve it!” wrote Nadal on his Twitter account.
Gasol won a silver medal with Spain at the 2008 Beijing Games and gold at the 2006 world championships.
Spain are the current European basketball champions.
Meanwhile, 30th-ranked Feliciano Lopez has been called up to replace Nadal in the Spanish tennis team alongside Fernando Verdasco, David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro, with Marc Lopez included in the doubles line-up.
Feliciano Lopez has reached the quarter-finals three times at Wimbledon, where the Olympic competition will be held. He will also play in the doubles alongside Ferrer.
Marc Lopez will replace Nadal in the men’s doubles alongside Marcel Granollers.
Lopez and Granollers won the doubles in Rome this year and reached the finals in Umag, Barcelona and Acapulco.