On Wednesday, Team USA announced that veteran luger Erin Hamlin will be the flag-bearer for Friday’s opening ceremony at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium.
On Thursday, U.S. speed skater Shani Davis torched the decision after he lost a tiebreaker coin toss that kept him from carrying the Stars and Stripes.
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
“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. “@TeamUSA dishonorably tossed a coin to decide its 2018 flag bearer. No problem. I can wait until 2022.”
It appears we have our first Team USA controversy between athletes before the opening ceremony. And it seems to be part of a larger rift among the eight U.S. winter sports federations, who couldn’t decide amongst themselves who should lead the team.
“We feel strongly toward Shani and they felt strongly for Erin,” U.S. speed skater Joey Mantia told the Associated Press. “That’s just that.”
Each of the eight federations — bobsled and skeleton, ski and snowboarding, figure skating, curling, biathlon, hockey, speedskating and luge — nominates an athlete for the role, and it came down to a 4-4 tie between Davis and Hamlin. When a decision couldn’t be made, a coin was tossed and Hamlin was awarded the honor.
Adding to the controversy is Davis’ use of #BlackHistoryMonth2018, which begs the question of how much Davis believes race was an issue for the black speed skater in the decision.
The AP reached out to Davis and his agent, but did not get a response. They did reach his mother, who didn’t offer much insight.
“I know something about a coin toss, he told me last night,” she said Thursday. “I don’t know anything else. Is that all?”
USA Luge also declined to comment.
Davis is making his fifth Olympics appearance and is the owner of two gold and two silver medals. Hamlin is a four-time Olympian with a bronze from the Sochi games in 2014.
Maybe Team USA should add a ninth voter in the future so a flip of the coin doesn’t make such a big decision.