Remsen’s Erin Hamlin would seem to be a fine choice to lead the U.S. Winter Olympic team into Friday’s opening ceremony as its flag-bearer. The first U.S. athlete to medal in singles luge four years ago in Sochi, she plans to retire after this year’s Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. On Wednesday, the U.S. Olympic Committee made her selection official, announcing that Hamlin would be carrying the stars and stripes ahead of her teammates.
This news did not sit well with Shani Davis, who is similarly worthy as a two-time gold medalist and the first black athlete to win gold in an individual Winter Olympic event. Early Thursday morning U.S. time, he tweeted out his displeasure with Hamlin’s selection, which ultimately came down to a coin toss.
I am an American and when I won the 1000m in 2010 I became the first American to 2-peat in that event. @TeamUSA dishonorably tossed a coin to decide its 2018 flag bearer. No problem. I can wait until 2022. #BlackHistoryMonth2018 #PyeongChang2018 pic.twitter.com/dsmTtNkhJs
— Shani Davis (@ShaniDavis) February 8, 2018
The flag-bearer was chosen from a pool of eight nominees, The Associated Press reported. One representative from each of the eight U.S. winter sports federations voted and, because Hamlin and Davis each received four votes, the decision was left to a coin toss, in a process established beforehand by the USOC. Hamlin won the coin toss.
“He told me and I was like, ‘Wait, officially?’ ” Hamlin said, recalling how she was told of her selection over the phone by Alan Ashley, the Team USA chef de mission.
Davis, 35, will be competing in his fifth and likely last Winter Olympics. After winning one gold and one silver at both the 2006 Turin Games and the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, he finished eighth in the 1,000 and 11th in the 1,500 in Sochi. And even though he has long trained separately from the U.S. speedskating team, his fellow competitors regard him as a mentor.
“He looks after the younger people like me and gives great advice. He’s not selfish at all,” U.S. speedskater Emery Lehman told the AP earlier this week. “He’ll go out of his way to help you out and having someone like him there is really good for the team. It also shows how hard he’s willing to fight to bounce back from Sochi. Seeing that kind of influences the rest of us to keep our heads up and keep grinding.”
Another U.S. speedskating teammate, Joey Mantia, said the flag-bearer decision was simply a split decision.
“We feel strongly toward Shani and they felt strongly for Erin,” he said. “That’s just that.”
Hamlin, meanwhile, will be the fourth luger to serve as U.S. flag-bearer.
“The nerves will be flying, for sure,” Hamlin said. “I slide — that’s what I do. Put me at the top of a track, [and] that’s my happy place. Walking out in front of a lot of people with even more watching from home, not tripping over my own feet or dropping the flag is going to be way more nerve-racking.”
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