US flag bearer in Sochi joins a distinguished line of Olympians

Todd Lodwick, a 37-year-old Nordic combined skier, can now say he has something in common with a former Lost Boy of South Sudan, a World War II fighter pilot and the son of the inventor of the Dewey decimal system. 

The United States Olympic Committee announced on Wednesday that Lodwick had been chosen to be the flag bearer for the U.S. delegation at the Opening Ceremony in Sochi on Friday. Lodwick has already made history by becoming the first U.S. athlete to participate in six Winter Olympic Games, and now he joins the distinguished ranks of athletes honored by their peers to carry the flag for America. (Flag bearers are chosen by a vote among the team captains of each sport from the American contingent headed to the Olympics.) 

Lodwick has been an Olympian so long that the U.S. flag bearer at his first Winter Olympics in 1994 in Lillehammer, retired American luger Cammy Myler, is only eight years older than him. He is also the first to represent his sport, which combines ski jumping and cross-country skiing, as a U.S. flag bearer.  

Lodwick also will be the first athlete from Colorado to do the honors. He follows in the footsteps of Mark Grimmette, a luger who carried the flag for the U.S. in 2010 in Vancouver. 

Four athletes who have carried the flag for the U.S. in the past have been foreign-born, including Lopez Lomong in at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing. Lomong, a track and field athlete, is one of the Lost Boys of South Sudan, who were abducted or displaced during a Sudanese civil war that lasted from 1983 to 2005. Lomong moved to the United States when he was 16 and gained citizenship in 2007. 

The first U.S. athlete to serve as a flag bearer at the Winter Olympics was Taffy Abel in 1924. He went on to be named to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame and is the first American-born player to be a regular in the National Hockey League. At the 1928 Winter Olympics, the U.S. delegation was led by Dr. Godfrey Dewey, the president of the Lake Placid Organizing Committee and the son of Melvil Dewey, the inventor of the Dewey Decimal Classification used in libraries. 

Billy Fiske, a bobsledder, carried the flag in 1932 and later was one of the first American pilots killed in action in World War II. He and a partner also built the first ski lift in the skiing mecca of Aspen, Colo. Speed skater Terry McDermott carried the flag at the 1968 Winter Olympics after he previously had a bit of Forrest Gump-style fame by serving as a guest on the legendary episode of "The Ed Sullivan Show" in which the Beatles made their U.S. debut in 1964. 

The first woman to serve as the U.S. flag bearer at the Winter Olympics was speed skater Dianne Holum in 1972. Hollum had previously won a silver medal and a bronze medal when she was only 16 years old at the 1968 Olympics. NBC Olympic figure skating analyst Scott Hamilton did the honors at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. Christine Witty, who carried the flag in 2006, was not only an Olympic speed skater, but also competed for the U.S. in the Summer Olympics in cycling. 

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Ralph Rose became the first U.S. Olympian to serve as flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony in 1908.

The first U.S. athlete to ever serve as a flag bearer was Ralph Rose at the 1908 Summer Olympics in London, which was so long ago that one of the sports Rose competed in was tug-of-war. Rafer Johnson, a track athlete who did the honors at the 1960 Summer Games, was one of the men who tackled Sirhan Sirhan after he assassinated Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. Fencer Mariel Zagunis carried the flag for the U.S. at the most recent Olympics in 2012 in London. 

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