Who was carrying the flag for the United States at the Beijing Winter Olympics?

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The Beijing Winter Olympics began on Friday with an impressive and eye-catching opening ceremony. The games come with hosts China still in strict COVID-19 lockdowns, with athletes being frequently tested, isolated if necessary, and with intense hygiene and sanitization rules. But the events are very much underway, with the United States picking up silver medals in freestyle skiing, snowboarding, and figure skating.

But after the opening ceremony, many are still wondering just who was carrying the flag for the United States? The answer is interesting, as it wasn’t who it was first supposed to be.

Bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor was originally given the honor by fellow Team USA members in recognition of her long and successful career, picking up medals in Vancouver, Sochi, and Pyeongchang. She responded with pride, saying:

“Being voted by my peers as the flag-bearer is the biggest honor of my career.”

Elana Meyers Taylor
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Sadly, she was unable to participate. Two days after arriving in Beijing, Meyers Taylor tested positive for COVID-19 and went into isolation. She was asymptomatic, and after two negative tests has now been cleared to compete when her event begins on Feb. 18.

That all meant speed-skater Brittany Bowe and curler John Shuster carried the flag as the Olympic flame was lit, both having been voted as runner-ups. Via Team USA, Bowe said:

“I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to lead Team USA into the Opening Ceremony. Taking on this responsibility is the honor of a lifetime, and I will proudly carry the American flag on behalf of Elana, her family, and all of Team USA.”

Brittany Bowe
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Bowe is an excellent choice, as she was lauded for her sportsmanship after voluntarily giving up her place in the 500m speed skating race to teammate Erin Jackson. This came after Jackson (ranked No. 1 in the world for the event) slipped and failed to qualify for the Games at the USA speed-skating Olympic trials.

In a great example of karma in action, Bowe will compete in the 500m race after all, as other countries returned quota spots in the event. Meyers Taylor concurred that she’s a fine replacement as flag bearer, saying:

“While I cannot carry the flag and walk in with the rest of Team USA, Brittany is very deserving of the opportunity to lead our delegation on my behalf.”

John Shuster is also a perfect candidate for the honor. He scored the first-ever Olympic gold in curling for the U.S. at the 2018 Games (which did much to raise the sport’s profile domestically). Shuster has competed in the curling event at every Winter Games since making his Olympic debut at Turin 2006, where he won bronze. Per Boreal, he said:

“Being elected as one of the flag bearers is a tremendous honor. When thinking back to my Opening Ceremony experiences, I cannot help but be so proud to lead Team USA into an Olympic Winter Games. Joining the incredible group of Team USA leaders, especially since it was chosen by my Team USA teammates, is one of the greatest honors of my sporting career.”

John Shuster
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You can see Brittany Bowe in the speed-skating events this week, with the 500m on Feb. 13 at 9:56pm CST (China Standard Time). The men’s curling begins on Feb. 9, with the final on Feb. 19 at 2:05pm CST.