Luge veteran and four-time Olympian Erin Hamlin led Team USA into Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium as the flag bearer today, marking the start of her final Olympic Games amid some initial backlash.
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Hamlin, 31, was among eight nominees on the ballot for the flag-bearer role and tied with speed skater Shani Davis before the U.S. Olympic Committee ultimately decided with a coin toss, which caused a stir.
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
Hamlin, the first U.S. athlete to win an Olympic medal in singles luge, will not let that controversy mar the once-in-a-lifetime honor, she told ABC.
"I had nothing to do with the process,” Hamlin said before the opening ceremony. “I actually didn't know any of the details, so I'm really not even paying too much attention to it.
"It has nothing to do with me aside from the fact that I am the flag bearer and I'm going to enjoy the moment and represent my teammates and my country as well as I can."
The honor is extra special for Hamlin not only because it comes at the end of her Olympic career, but because her peers recognize her talent and place among the team.
"I compete as an athlete so I'm working hard and working towards achieving my own goals but this is something that has to be kind of given to me by my peers and that's really special," Hamlin added. "[It's] definitely an honor that I never imagined I would get so that's super exciting and a huge privilege."
The 23rd Winter Olympic Games will be Hamlin's last luge performance, but she said she still has high hopes for herself.
"I really just want to enjoy it all; it's going be my last so I want to appreciate every moment of it and just walk away knowing I left it all on the ice and just be proud of my performance," Hamlin said, adding that she wants to medal and is capable of doing so.
"That's the main goal but, at this point, I don't feel like I have anything to prove. So it's not going to make or break my career but it, obviously, would be awesome."
Hamlin will compete in her first run of the competition Monday.