PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) – Tickets to the opening ceremony of any Olympics can be costly, and Erin Hamlin’s parents often wonder if it’s a worthwhile purchase.
This time, there’s no question.
Hamlin’s final Olympics will start with her having the distinction of carrying the American flag into Friday’s official start of the Pyeongchang Games, after winning a vote held by her fellow Team USA athletes. She is the fourth member of the USA Luge team to carry the flag into an opening, and whatever Ron and Eileen Hamlin spent for their seats will be worth every penny.
“I think they’re going to be really glad that they made that decision,” Hamlin said. “They’re really pumped. I’m sure my brothers will be. We’ve grown up watching the Olympics and we’re always like, ‘Who’s going to be carrying the flag?’ And to actually be that person is insane.”
Hamlin’s teammates were thrilled by the news, both because of what it will mean for her and what it means for luge.
“I was so happy for her,” U.S. doubles Olympian Jayson Terdiman said. “It’s one of the coolest things. I tell you what, I can’t wait. I couldn’t wait before, but now I can’t wait even more. Not just does Erin get to hold that flag, but USA Luge gets to hold that flag. It’s so cool. It’s a great honor for our small sport. Great honor for her. Super happy.”
Hamlin is a four-time Olympian, a winner of a bronze medal at the 2014 Sochi Games, a two-time world champion and a winner of 23 World Cup medals. But even with that sort of resume, Hamlin — who is retiring after the Olympics, ending about a two-decade career on her sled — never thought she would be the pick.
In December, when asked in an interview with The Associated Press if she thought it would be possible, Hamlin giggled.
“To me, that always seems to be a really, really big-name person,” Hamlin said at the time.
Apparently, that’s who the native of tiny Remsen, New York, has become, at least in the U.S. Olympic community.
Hamlin learned of the voting result Wednesday night. She got a text from Alan Ashley, the chef de mission for Team USA, requesting her to call back as soon as she could. Hamlin wondered what had gone wrong and braced herself for some sort of bad news as she dialed his number.
“He told me and I was like, ‘Wait, officially?'” Hamlin said, still in disbelief.
She then called her family, who were about to start their long flight to South Korea. Her mother started crying, which was no surprise. Her brother didn’t exactly put her at ease when he offered this sage piece of advice — don’t drop the flag.
“The nerves will be flying for sure,” Hamlin said. “I slide. That’s what I do. Put me at the top of the track, that’s my happy place. Walking out in front of a lot of people and even more watching from home, hoping to not trip over my own feet or drop the flag is going to be way more nerve-wracking.”
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