BERKSHIRE'S Kate Richardson-Walsh was given the honour of carrying Great Britain's flag as the Olympic Games came to a close in the early hours of this morning.
The Maidenhead-based Richardson-Walsh was given the honour as Britain's flag-bearer after captaining the women's hockey team to gold, with Britain edging out Holland in a dramatic penalty shootout in the final.
The glittering ceremony at the Maracana was a chance for Britain's athletes to celebrate a hugely successful Games in which they beat the tally of medals won in London four years ago.
Richardson-Walsh, who was nominated by a panel led by Team GB chef de mission Mark England, said: "I feel incredibly proud to have been chosen.
"There are so many athletes here who have achieved great things in Rio and I'm incredibly surprised and excited to carry the flag this evening.
"I'm very aware of the magnitude of this honour having been part of this magnificent team who have just excelled in so many ways and in so many sports. There are so many fantastic multi-Olympians and multi-medallists here I feel it's such a huge honour for me and for hockey as a sport."
The 36-year-old from Reading Hockey Club has made 375 appearances for England and Great Britain - a record - and has captained both for 13 years.
She retired after Friday's victory and she has announced that she will leave the Sonning Lane club to play domestically in Holland with wife Helen Richardson-Walsh, another member of Britain's victorious team, also in her fourth Olympics, next season.
"I've had such a fantastic Games," she added. "If you could write a movie script with a fairytale ending then this would be it.
"However much you talk about working hard and believing that your dreams will come true, when it actually happens you still have to pinch yourself. It's just been an amazing few weeks here.
"What the whole team has done here has been infectious. The professionalism, attention to detail and real British spirit that every athlete has brought to their performances has culminated in this record-breaking achievement.
"It's just the most special and supportive place to be. I will certainly miss it and hope it is an environment that will continue for many Olympic Games to come."
Team GB chef de mission Mark England said: "To captain the team to a first women's hockey gold is an incredible achievement and befits a remarkable Games for Team GB here at Rio 2016.
"There is no one more fitting than Kate to lead Team GB into the closing ceremony in what has been the greatest British sporting triumph of all time.
"For 16 years Kate has been on this journey with Team GB and has embodied the values and spirit of our Olympians throughout her career both as a captain and an athlete.
"The success of her and her team gripped the nation on Friday and no doubt inspired many to try to follow in her footsteps."
Team GB have finished second at the Rio Games, achieving their biggest Olympic medal haul for more than a century.
Great Britain smashed their target of 48 to make Rio 2016 Britain's best ever "away" Games, ending up with 67 medals - two more than London's remarkable haul.
Around 250 Team GB athletes took part in the closing ceremony athletes' parade, with a further 100 team officials and support staff also involved.