"It's a great honour and privilege to carry out such a duty for Trinidad and Tobago."
Marc Burns was elated on hearing of his selection as T&T's flagbearer for today's Olympic Games opening ceremony, at the Olympic Stadium here in London, England.
The veteran sprinter captured his first Olympic medal at the 2008 Games, in Beijing, China, teaming up with Keston Bledman, Emmanuel Callender and Richard Thompson for silver in the men's 4x100 metres relay.
Burns is competing at his fourth Olympic Games. He made his debut as a 17-year-old, at the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia, competing in the sprint relay. Four years later, in Athens, Greece, Burns was disqualified for a false start in the opening round of the 100m dash, but helped T&T cop seventh spot in the 4x100m final. And in Beijing, he earned relay silver and also reached the 100m final, finishing seventh in the championship race.
Burns is the Mr Consistent of T&T sprinting. He reached the century final at the 2005, 2007 and 2009 editions of the World Championships. The 29-year-old athlete also has three World Championship sprint relay silver medals—2001, 2005 and 2009.
"Having faith in God, focusing on what I can control, and having faith in my team—coach, physio, family and the close circle of people around me. That's the main thing for longevity.
"My biggest moment," he continued, "was the World Championships in 2001, given my age and it was my only major medal at the time."
Eighteen-year-old Burns teamed up with Ato Boldon, Jacey Harper and 16-year-old Darrel Brown for 4x100m bronze. The T&T quartet was later promoted to silver following the disqualification of the United States. US anchorman Tim Montgomery was banned for doping.
Burns was selected as the T&T reserve for the men's 100m here in London, after finishing fourth at the National Open Track and Field Championships. He is also a member of the 4x100m squad.
"My main focus was to come to the Games and make the athletes comfortable--enlighten them on what is expected. I'm more mature now and I see things through a whole different perspective. I understand fully what is expected at the Games. It's not just about competing, but showing a certain code of conduct for those who are following behind."
Burns recently clocked 10.00 seconds to finish third at the International Athletics Meeting, in Lucerne, Switzerland. Rondel Sorrillo was seventh in 10.23.
At the National Championships, Sorrillo copped third spot in the 100m, and was selected to compete in the event here in London, along with Bledman, winner of the national title in a personal best 9.86 seconds, and Thompson, the 2008 Olympic 100m silver medallist.
Sorrillo, the national champion in the 200m, was also chosen to compete in the half-lap event at the London Games.
Team officials have until next Wednesday to decide which three sprinters will fly the Red, White and Black in the 100m.
"I'm here to represent T&T, regardless," Burns told the Express. "So if I do not run the 100, all my energy and focus will be on the relay. The 10-flat came at the right time, going into the Games. Even if I don't run the 100, I'm capable of an exceptional second leg in the relay."
Burns is playing a key leadership role in the 4x100m.
"I'm enlightening the team on what's expected, and the frame of mind to go about doing that. It's not about the other teams and getting caught up in the hype--focus on what we need to do and going out and doing it.
"Anything could happen. We're not short-changing ourselves. Just like everybody else, we're going for the gold medal. If God sees it another way and another colour medal, we would be grateful."
Two days after his 10-flat run in Lucerne, Burns' running gear was stolen as he prepared to compete at the Folksam Grand Prix, in Sweden. Though he ran in a borrowed pair of spikes that did not fit, Burns still managed to win, the T&T track star clocking 10.50 seconds, into a 1.9 metres per second headwind.
The resilient Burns said a fifth Olympic appearance, at the 2016 Rio Games, is a possibility.
"I will only be 33 at the next Olympics, so once I'm healthy and all is well, that could be on my resume also. I'll take it one step at a time."
T&T chef de mission Annette Knott told the Express she will always remember a statement Burns made at the 2007 Pan American Games, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
"Marc said even if we had a three-man relay and he had to run two legs, he will run for Trinidad and Tobago.
"For his silver medal in 2008, his commitment as an athlete and his consistent representation, Marc will carry the flag. This is his fourth Olympics, and he is in fact the most senior athlete.
"He's always there, in so many finals. It's about sustainability and consistency. Marc is one of the more consistent athletes we've had, and not for one minute is he looking for the glory."
In a T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC) press release, president Larry Romany paid tribute to Burns.
"I was chef de mission at the Sydney Olympics when the then 17-year-old Marc made his Olympic debut. Over the years it has been a privilege to work with Marc. He is a class act who has never failed to answer the call be it CAC, Pan Am, Commonwealth or Olympic Games."
Today's opening ceremony starts at four p.m. (T&T time). The outfits to be worn by Burns and the rest of the team during the parade of nations are the creations of T&T designers Richard Hope and Nivanya Abraham.
-Kwame Laurence in London