Olympic Baby Names: The Flag Bearers

Olympic Baby Names: The Flag Bearers

By Lauren Der

Carrying their country’s flag into the Olympics opening ceremony is a great honor for any athlete. Many of the bearers have won medals in previous Olympics and are hopefuls this time around again. Most are big stars in their home countries, some internationally—representing the US this year, for example, is swimming champ Michael Phelps.

Here are some of the more interestingly named flag bearers from other countries.

Anastasia Bogdanovski, Macedonia, swimming

Anastasia is a top name in Russia, #3 in Moscow from 2012 to 2014; variation Anastasiya was #1 in Moscow in 2015 and nationwide in 2012. It is also in the Top 300 in the US and in England and Wales. The name is well-known internationally via Romanov Grand Duchess Anastasia and the 1997 animated movie Anastasia, a fictionalized account of her life.

Bojana Popovi?, Montenegro, handball

Bojana, used primarily in Eastern Europe, is the feminine form of the less popular Bojan, meaning “battle.” Bojana was one of the ten most popular names in Montenegro for girls born between 1982 and 1991.

Dolores Moreira__, Uruguay, sailing

Dolores has long been associated with Spanish heritage and Catholicism. “María de los Dolores,” meaning “Mary of Sorrows,” is a title of the Virgin Mary. Dolores was especially popular in the United States in the 1920s and 30s, but dropped off the charts in the 1980s.

Federica Pellegrini, Italy, swimming (shown)

Federica is the Italian form of Frederica, a feminization of Frederick. Quite common in Italy– at Number 53 but falling: it was #7 in 2000- it is rarely heard elsewhere. Pellegrini is one of Italy’s biggest female sports stars.

Majlinda Kelmendi, Kosovo, judo

Majlinda, pronounced my-LEEN-dah, means “born in May. The Kosovar Albanian (ethnically Albanian; from or living in Kosovo) Kelmendi was, appropriately, born on May 9. It could make an interesting namesake for an Aunt Linda.

Nada Al Bedwawi, UAE, swimming

Nada is a unisex Arabic name meaning “generosity” or “dew.” It is ranked #76 in Bosnia and Herzegovina and #458 in France– both countries with a sizable Muslim population. Nada is also an Eastern European name, with the same spelling and pronunciation but a different etymology, as well as the Spanish word for ‘nothing.’

Neta Rivkin, Israel, gymnastics

Neta is a Hebrew name meaning “plant” or “shrub.” It was in the US Top 1000 through most of the 1880s-1930s. Netta is an alternative spelling. Actress Natalie Portman was born NetaLee Hershlag.

Yusra Mardini, Refugee Olympic Team, swimming

Yusra has made a few appearances on the England and Wales popularity chart over the past decade, at #370 in 2014, but has never charted in the US. The name is mentioned a couple times in the Quran.

Zahra Nemati, Iran, archery

Zahra is the traditional Arabic and Persian form of Zara. Zahra was the second most popular name in Iran for girls born 2010-2011 as well as among the general Iranian population. Both spellings are gaining in popularity: Zahra, which was used by Chris Rock for his daughter, has jumped more than 200 places to #690 since entering the SSA list in 2012. Zara shot up over 500 places in a decade to #402 in 2015. Zahra is #158 in England and Wales, where Zara has been in the Top 100 for over a decade. A famous bearer is Zara Phillips Tindall, Princess Anne’s daughter, an Olympic medalist equestrian.


Amel Tuka, Bosnia and Herzegovina, athletics

Amel is a unisex name fairly common in Bosnia and Herzegovina and around the Arab world. It is the Bosnian masculine form of the more popular Amal, which was drawn to public attention by Amal Clooney, the Lebanese-born wife of George Clooney.

Anuradha Cooray__, Sri Lanka, marathon

Anuradha is a unisex name, but more common for girls. Anuradha is the Hindi goddess of good luck, and one of the ten principal disciples of Buddha bore the name.

Áron Szilágyi, Hungary, fencing

Áron, the Hungarian form of Aaron, is ranked #11 and rising in Hungary. Used in a number of European countries, it has been the most popular name in Iceland for boys five years running. Aron is the Hebrew form, heard on Aron Trask in John Steinbeck’s East of Eden.

Avtandil Tchrikishvili__, Georgia, judo

Avtandil is a Georgian name of Persian origin, created by 12th-century Georgian poet ShotaRustaveli for his poem “The Knight in the Panther’s Skin.” Avtandil Jorbenadze was the Prime Minister of Georgia from 2001 to 2003.

Jossimar Calvo__, Colombia, gymnastics

Jossimar, more commonly spelled Josimar, was originally a combination of José and Maria, used on children by parents with those names or in honour of Jesus’ parents. It was popularized by Brazilian soccer player Josimar Higino Pereira, commonly known as Josimar.

Pavlos Kontidis__, Cyprus, sailing

Pavlos is the Greek form of Paul and a common name in Greece, where Biblical names are quite popular. It is often used to commemorate the Apostle Paul, an important figure in the Greek Orthodox Church.

Pita Taufatofua__, Tonga, taekwondo

Virtually unknown outside the Polynesian islands, Pita is the Maori and Polynesian form of Peter. After European missionaries arrived in the 19th century, many Tongans became Christian. Polynesian forms of Biblical names were adapted from European ones and are still used today. To most Americans, Pita would read as a word name.

Rafael Nadal, Spain, tennis; Rafael Lacayo, Nicaragua, shooting

Rafael is ranked #59 in Spain and has been Top 300 in the US for decades, charting across Europe and Latin America as well. Originally of Hebrew origin, it has been translated into many languages, including Arabic, German and Thai. It is also spelled Raphael.

Ruslan Zhaparov__, Kazakhstan, taekwondo

Ruslan is used in a number of Central Asian countries. It is the Russian variant of the Turkish and Persian Arslan and Aslan, meaning “lion.” Ruslan was the knight who saves his bride in Alexander Pushkin’s 1820 Russian epic poem “Ruslan and Ludmila”.

Teymur Mammadov, Azerbaijan, boxing

Teymur is an Azerbaijani variant of the Georgian Temur, which itself is a form of Turkic name Timur. 14th-century Turkish leader Timur, also known as Tamerlane, was the most powerful ruler in the Muslim world at the time. Teymur is also a Central Asian surname.

Yann Siccardi, Monaco, judo

Yann is the Breton form of John, which along with its variants has been one of the most widely used names ever in Western society. Yann was ranked #113 in France in 2010, but its diminutive Yannick is more common elsewhere in Europe, especially the Netherlands and Switzerland, associated with flamboyant French tennis star Yannick Noah.