Erin Hamlin has led TeamUSA out for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang after being named as flag carrier ahead of Shani Davis, who boycotted the ceremony.
Hamlin, a four-time Olympian and winner of a luge bronze medal at the 2014 Sochi games, beamed a broad smile as she led out the athletes competing at the games in South Korea.
The 31-year-old was chosen in a coin toss with, speedskater Shani Davis, one of just a few black athletes in TeamUSA, who says he should have been chosen to carry the Stars and Stripes
Erin Hamlin carries the flag of the United States during the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang
Davis, 35, lost after a vote among sports federations represented at the games ended in a tie.
A U.S. speed skating spokesman said Davis had not originally planned to march in the parade of nations later on Friday, but would have made an exception if he had been chosen as flag-bearer.
‘Shani won’t march in the parade. It was never part of his plans. He is fully focused on his first race and is concentrating on that,’ the spokesman said.
In an angry tweet, Davis, who has won two golds and two silvers in previous Olympics took a shot at Hamlin, the holder of a single bronze medal.
‘I am an American and when I won the 1000m in 2010 I became the first American to 2-peat in that event,’ Davis wrote on Twitter.
Hamlin is a four-time Olympian and winner of a luge bronze medal at the 2014 Sochi games,
He then slammed TeamUSA for ‘dishonorably’ tossing a coin to decide who would have the honor of carrying the flag.
‘No problem. I can wait until 2022,’ he added before using the hashtag #BlackHistoryMonth2018.’
Hamlin, the first American to medal in luge singles and a winner of 23 World Cup medal, has already announced this will be her last Olympics as she is retiring immediately after these games.
The American team has 11 Asian American athletes and 10 black athletes members, a ratio that is far lower than the number of minority athletes the team sends to the Summer Games.
Over the past six years the U.S. Olympic Committee has made concerted efforts to promote diversity among its team members.
In 2012, a committee was formed to improve diversity and Jason Thompson was hired as director of diversity and inclusion.
Hamlin did not address the controversy but told USA Today: ‘Winning a medal is the effort you put in and the time and the work and sacrifice to succeed and achieve something. That’s all on me. That’s something I’ve done.
‘I think they’re going to be really glad that they made that decision.
‘They’re really pumped. I’m sure my brothers will be. We’ve grown up watching the Olympics and we’re always like, ‘Who’s going to be carrying the flag?’ And to actually be that person is insane.’
Hamlin’s teammates were thrilled by the news, both because of what it will mean for her and what it means for the niche sport of luge.
‘I was so happy for her,’ U.S. doubles Olympian Jayson Terdiman said.
‘It’s one of the coolest things. I tell you what, I can’t wait. I couldn’t wait before, but now I can’t wait even more. Not just does Erin get to hold that flag, but USA Luge gets to hold that flag. It’s so cool. It’s a great honor for our small sport.’