US defends flag bearer process after ‘dishonourable’ coin toss

US speed skater Shani Davis suggested that his loss in a coin flip was racially motivated – AFP

PYEONGCHANG: The US Olympic Committee defended its method of selecting a Games flag bearer after speed skater Shani Davis expressed his anger at losing on the flip of a coin and suggested it was racially motivated.

African-American Davis, the top medal winner among the US team at Pyeongchang, missed out to luger Erin Hamlin for the prestigious role in Friday’s opening ceremony.

Voting from one US representative from each of the eight winter sports federations was deadlocked 4-4 between Hamlin – the first US luge singles medalist – and Davis. In such cases, a coin flip settles the issue.

Davis, a two-time 1,000m champion, took issue at how he lost out and noted it came during what in America is “Black History Month”.

“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.”

USOC spokesman Mark Jones told a press conference: “The Team USA flag bearer is selected using a detailed selection procedure that is fully driven by athletes.

“As is always the case, there were many worthy candidates for this year’s honour and we look forward to having four-time Olympian Erin Hamlin lead our delegation into the opening ceremony of the Olympic Winter Games Pyeongchang 2018.”

Davis, 35, is one of only three five-time Olympians in the US lineup.

He has 1,500m silver from Turin and Vancouver as well as his 1,000m golds.

It’s not the first flap involving Davis at an Olympics. He and US speed skating were at odds over his status for the team pursuit event debuting at the 2006 Turin Olympics.

US teammate Chad Hedrick ripped Davis for not taking part, saying it cost the Americans a gold medal. They finished sixth.