PYEONGCHANG • In sub-zero temperatures at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics opening ceremony yesterday, a heartwarming moment for Singaporeans arrived at 8.46pm (7.46pm, Singapore time).
The Republic's first Winter Olympian and flag-bearer Cheyenne Goh entered the Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium in a milestone for Singapore sport.
The short-track speed skater, who will feature in the women's 1,500m event next Saturday, was joined by chef de mission Tan Paey Fern, coach Chun Lee Kyung, and team manager Antony Lee.
"I'm really excited and it's a pretty big honour to be able to be doing this, I think it's really cool," said the 18-year-old.
It was also a memorable moment for Sonja Chong, president of the Singapore Ice Skating Association.
"A new chapter in Singapore's winter sports history was written tonight," said Chong.
"We've always believed that Singaporean skaters can qualify for and compete at the Winter Olympics. And tonight, our dream has indeed come true.
Seeing Cheyenne marching in bearing the Singapore flag, the feeling is just beyond amazing. It was an emotional moment.
SONJA CHONG, president of the Singapore Ice Skating Association.
"Seeing Cheyenne marching in bearing the Singapore flag, the feeling is just beyond amazing! It was an emotional moment."
Fellow debutants Ecuador, Eritrea, Kosovo, Malaysia, Nigeria also enjoyed their moment in the spotlight on a night when 3,000 athletes from 92 countries and territories converged.
But Tongan cross-country skier Pita Taufatofua stole the show when he entered the stadium bare-chested again as spectators huddled near heaters, held hot packs and slurped down steaming fishcake soup to ward off the chills.
The 34-year-old caused a stir at the 2016 Rio Games when he oiled himself up and went topless as Tonga's flag-bearer.
And despite the Pyeongchang Olympics threatening to be one of the coldest Games on record, he strode into the arena glistening with oil and bare-chested, wearing just a traditional male ta'ovala skirt, his muscles rippling as he waved Tonga's flag around like a spear.
Later, the crowd erupted again as athletes from North and South Korea marched together under the unification flag for the first time at an Olympics since 2006.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach told the crowd that by allowing their athletes to march together under one flag at the ceremony, North and South Korea had shown sport's "unique power" to unite people.
"All the athletes around me, all the spectators here in the stadium, and all Olympic fans watching around the world... we are all touched by this wonderful gesture," he said.
South Korean figure skating superstar Kim Yuna lit the Olympic cauldron after performing a short skating routine and receiving the torch. Singapore now waits for one of its own to carve the ice.
Tan told The Straits Times: "My expectations for Cheyenne are that she performs her best, gets the experience and enjoys the Games - this will help her in future tournaments that she competes in.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS