PYEONGCHANG (Reuters) - American luger Erin Hamlin said it was “too bad” that there was disappointment about her carrying the United States’ flag at the Winter Olympics opening ceremony and that any athlete would have felt honored to accept the task.
Bronze medalist Hamlin was awarded the flag over Shani Davis by the toss of a coin, angering the twice Olympic champion speed skater who became the first black athlete to claim an individual medal in 2006.
The flag-bearer is chosen by a vote of the eight U.S. winter sports federations but the result was tied at 4-4 between Hamlin and Davis and a coin was used to break the tie, in keeping with United States Olympic Committee (USOC) rules.
“I just was enjoying the moment (at Friday’s opening ceremony); I was just honored to be nominated as one of the eight people that were put into the mix,” Hamlin told Reuters at the Olympic Sliding Centre on Saturday.
”Just getting that far was an amazing thing and I think it’s too bad that there is that much disappointment around not getting it but I had no part in it.
”I had no control in it but I was just honored that there were athletes that felt I deserved that.
“I just was living in the moment, enjoying it. I just hope I represented my team mates well. I don’t think there’s a single athlete that would turn that down.”
Hamlin, who will retire after the Games, became the first American female luger to win an Olympic medal when she won bronze in Sochi four years ago.
Davis had tweeted that the coin toss was a “dishonorable” method to decide and added the hashtag “BlackHistoryMonth2018”, suggesting racial bias was involved. He declined to march at the opening ceremony.
Hamlin’s fellow luger Summer Britcher defended her team mate’s right to carry the flag and said Davis’s reaction was “unnecessary”.
“It was a fair process to decide the flag-bearer. It was a process that was decided over a year ago, how it would be decided,” she told Reuters.
“She definitely deserved that honor and she carried it with pride.”
Editing by Clare Fallon