Pini, easily the country’s greatest swimmer and perhaps sportsman, has been given the honour of being Team PNG’s flag bearer at the Rio Olympics opening ceremony.
The announcement was made at the team’s official farewell at the Taurama Aquatic and Indoor Centre in Port Moresby last Friday.
The 34-year-old retired after the London Games in 2012 but returned to the pool for last year’s Pacific Games in Port Moresby, where he won seven gold medals.
He will compete in just one event in Rio, his favoured 100m butterfly, but said the finality of his Olympic journey had yet to sink in.
“I mean it doesn’t feel like this is going to be the end of it but I’m still in that phase of preparation where all I’m thinking about doing is that fast race,” Pini said.
“It’s my fourth Olympics so I’ve definitely sort of been through the emotions and I know what to expect and all the hurdles that may come along the way, together with travelling and being inside the village.
“It’s no different, still very excited and I can’t wait for it all to kick off.” Pini set his personal-best time at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and said he’s got some work to do if he’s to achieve his goal of making the semifinals in Brazil.
“I sort of look at last year at what made the semifinal and that was 52.2 seconds, so its about half-a-second faster than what I’ve been (clocking) this year so far.
“I believe I can get there. I don’t think that (time) will make the semifinal this year so I will have to be quicker if I want to do that — probably around the 52 flat or 51.9 — and that’s sort of closer to what I have been clocking eight years ago; that seems like a long time ago, making the final for the Olympics in Beijing,” Pini said.
“I believe I can get there but you just don’t know what’s going to happen on the day and when you have your one big race out in front of you, sometimes it can go a bit wrong,” he said.
Team PNG is sending a team of eight athletes in Rio.
Team PNG: Pini (swimming), Toea Wisil (athletics), Theo Piniau (athletics), Samantha Kassman (taekwondo), Max Kassman (taekwondo), Morea Baru (weightlifting), Raymond Ovinou (judo), Tahdius Katua (boxing).