Coin Toss Controversy: Team USA PyeongChang Flag Bearer

Noor Majid, Staff Writer

The 2018 Winter Olympics, taking place in PyeongChang, South Korea, have officially begun, and while the iconic Opening Ceremony has dazzled, wowed, and reintroduced the world to the oiled flag bearer from Tonga, controversy regarding one country’s choice of flag bearer already seems to be simmering.

On February 7, the flag bearer for the United States was named to be four-time Olympian Erin Hamlin, who has won a bronze medal for the luger event at the 2014 Sochi Games.

Photo: AP
Erin Hamlin

All initially seemed well with this choice, with Hamlin saying, “It is definitely an honor and a privilege to be recognized by all of Team USA.”

However, it quickly became known that the decision for the 2018 USA flag bearer was actually the result of a coin toss after the voting committee’s decision was split 4-4 between Hamlin and Shani Davis, a long track speed skater and four-time medalist — with two gold and two silver.

Davis himself took to Twitter to express his disappointment in a short statement which included, “[Team USA] dishonorably tossed a coin to decide its 2018 flag bearer. No problem. I can wait until 2022.”

Davis also referenced Black History Month in the hashtag of his tweet — prompting speculation over the racial implications of the coin toss. Case in point: Erin Hamlin is white; and Shani Davis is black. 

Olympic Champion speed skater Shani Davis

When asked about the coin toss, Hamlin stated, “I know something about a coin toss, [Davis] told me last night. I don’t know anything else. Is that all?”

Shani Davis was noticeably absent from the Opening Ceremony. A spokesman said Saturday that he originally planned to skip Friday night’s festivities because of his training schedule, but briefly reconsidered when he had a chance to be the flag bearer.

At the 2016 Summer Games in Rio, Michael Phelps bore the flag for the Opening Ceremony, while Simone Biles had it for the close. For the 2016 Games in Sochi, combined skier Todd Lodwick carried the flag before the Winter Games, and hockey player Julie Chu carried it for the Closing Ceremony. It is unknown who will represent Team USA at the Closing Ceremony.

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