Carrying our flag
Curlers slid rocks over perfect ice to launch competition in the 23rd Winter Olympics Thursday, and the opening ceremonies followed today — at night in South Korea but morning for us, 14 hours back.
At the head of the procession of U.S. athletes entering the stadium, carrying our nation’s flag, was our own Erin Hamlin. A native of Remsen, just outside the Adirondack Park between Old Forge and Utica, she has trained and often lived in Lake Placid for the last 18 years while pursuing her career as a luge racer. She earned a bronze medal four years ago in Sochi, Russia — the only Olympic medal an American singles luger has ever won. After these games — her fourth — she plans to retire from the sport, go back home, marry her fiance and start a new life.
Sadly, a bit of controversy accompanies this, through no fault of Hamlin. Members of the eight U.S. winter sports federations vote among eight nominees for flag bearer, but this year the vote tied between Hamlin and veteran speedskater Shani Davis. A coin toss gave the honor to her. Sadly, Davis tweeted afterward, “@TeamUSA dishonorably tossed a coin to decide its 2018 flag bearer,” adding “#BlackHistoryMonth2018” to bring race into it. He’s black; Hamlin is white. We understand he was upset, but that was unsportsmanlike.
Meanwhile we’re bursting with pride to have another Lake Placid area Olympian carry the flag in the Opening Ceremonies — and another luger, too. Eight years ago it was Mark Grimmette, who stayed in Lake Placid after retirement as USA Luge’s sports program director. In 1994 it was luger Cammy Myler, who went to high school at Lake Placid’s National Sports Academy. In 1984 it was luger Frank Masley. Lake Placid native bobsledder James Bickford carried the flag in both the 1952 and 1956 Opening Ceremonies, and in 1928 it was a local non-athlete — Godfrey Dewey, who the following year would secure the 1932 games for Lake Placid.
Locals have been chosen to carry the flag in the Olympic Closing Ceremonies as well. We vividly remember Bill Demong of Vermontville doing so at the 2010 games in Vancouver, where he had won gold and silver medals in nordic combined.
Erin Hamlin is an excellent role model, with her positive outlook and down-to-earth personality. She deserves the huge honor of carrying our nation’s colors. At the same time, she bore our area’s spirit out to the world as well.