Just a few days remains 'til the 2018 Winter Olympics come to an end, which means the closing ceremony is not too far away. Like the opening ceremony, the closing ceremony on Sunday, Feb. 25, will feature a parade of nations, during which each country represented at the Olympics will have its athletes take a lap inside the PyeongChang Olympic Stadium, led by a designated flag bearer. When it comes to Team USA, you might be curious: Who is carrying the American flag at the Olympics closing ceremony?
After all, the answer is certainly not the same athlete who carried the flag during the opening ceremony. The honor of being flag bearer for Team USA during the closing ceremony has been handed to Jessie Diggins, the 26-year-old cross-country skier who won a gold medal after a dramatic, come-from-behind win in the team sprint.
"I actually thought there maybe had been a mistake," Diggins said during an appearance on the Today show, speaking on her being chosen as flag bearer. "I was like, 'What? I can’t believe this.' It is so humbling, and I feel so honored to have been picked."
Perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise.
Diggins was, after all, at the center of arguably the most thrilling highlight for Team USA at the PyeongChang Games. During the team sprint final on Thursday, after teammate Kikkan Randall had tagged her into action for the final leg of the race, Diggins had been trailing two competitors.
But during the final stretch of the race — a point at which she says she was exhausted — Diggins turned on the gas, making one final push to claim gold at the finish line.
“In that last corner, I don’t know what I was thinking, except, ‘Go! Go! Go!,’’’ Diggins told the Minnesota Star Tribune. “You’re going to have to dig really deep. I was in a lot of pain, for sure. But when your team is counting on you, you’ve got to give it everything you have.’’
The finish was punctuated by a carefree celebration between Diggins and Randall, who embraced on the snow at the Alpensia Cross-Country Centre in PyeongChang after the conclusion of the race.
“I was like, ‘Did we just win the Olympics?’’’ Diggins told the Star-Tribune. “And she was like, ‘Yeah.’ It was amazing. It feels unreal. I can’t believe it just happened. But we’ve been feeling so good these entire Games, and just having it happen at a team event means so much more to me than any individual medal ever would.’’
The win gave Team USA its first ever gold medal in a cross-country skiing event. It was also only the second cross-country skiing medal ever, of any kind, for an American at the Winter Olympics.
The performance was history-making, exhilarating, and unexpected. In other words, it had the perfect recipe of factors to make Jessie Diggins, and partner Kikkan Randall, one of the most memorable athletes at the PyeongChang Olympics, and thus an unsurprising choice for flag bearer.
Team USA's selection of Diggins is a much less dramatic affair than the selection of luge competitor Erin Hamlin for the opening ceremony. Hamlin had been chosen via a tiebreaker, after speed skater Shani Davis had received the same amount of votes as her.
Davis, though, was not happy with the process that decided the selection.
"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. #BlackHistoryMonth2018#PyeongChang2018"
Few people can argue with Diggins being the flag bearer this time around, though, not after her amazing accomplishment in PyeongChang.