There were plenty of deserving options for U.S. flag bearer at the Olympic Closing Ceremony, but in the end there’s only one Simone Biles.
The star gymnast will carry the flag for Team USA on Sunday evening, putting a ribbon on a fantastic Olympics for the United States.
“It’s an incredible honor to be selected as the flag bearer by my Team USA teammates,” Biles told TeamUSA.org. “This experience has been the dream of a lifetime for me and my team and I consider it a privilege to represent my country, the United States Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics by carrying our flag. I also wish to thank the city of Rio de Janeiro, and the entire country of Brazil, for hosting an incredible Games.”
Michael Phelps was the flag bearer at the Olympic Opening Ceremony. He had a decent Games, if you’re into a few dozen career medals.
The nation of Haiti will have a competitor in the Summer Olympics for the fifteenth time when the Rio Olympics officially begin Friday, with Haitians having competed in seven different events. One of the sports in which an athlete had yet to represent Haiti is wrestling, but that will change this summer. And in representing the nation of his birth, 37-year old Asnage Castelly will receive the ultimate honor during the Opening Ceremony.
According to the Associated Press, Castelly has been selected to be Haiti’s flag bearer when the delegation enters the Maracanâ stadium Friday evening. Castelly, who was selected as a wild card for the 74kg (163 pounds) freestyle wrestling competition, left Haiti with his family when he was nine years old and even served a stint in Iraq in the U.S. Army as a Muslim chaplain. The honor of carrying the flag of his birth nation is simply another piece of validation for Castelly, who had to convince Haiti’s Olympic Committee to allow him to represent the nation in wrestling competitions.
In mid-June Castelly spoke with NPR about this ultimately successful struggle:
“They’re like, ‘Uh, we don’t have wrestling.’ I’m like, ‘What do you mean you don’t have it.’ I write them over and over. ‘Uh, who are you? Why you keep on writing? We do not have wrestling.'”
Finally, Castelly managed to convince them that they should have wrestling, and that he could do it for them. He competed for Haiti in freestyle wrestling championships as far away as Mongolia. He did well, but not enough to qualify for the Rio Olympics.
Asnage, currently a member of the coaching staff at Springfield Technical Community College, received word from United World Wrestling that he was selected for an Olympic spot in May. With the dream of representing Haiti now realized, Asnage’s next goal is to win the nation its first Olympic medal since 1928. During those games Silvio Cator won silver in the long jump, four years after Haiti won bronze in the men’s team free rifle competition in Paris.
The most dominant judoka in the world will be France’s flag bearer for the Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony next week.
Teddy Riner was awarded the honor Sunday, after the conclusion of the Tour de France in Paris.
“It’s a great honor, a great pride to have been elected by my peers,” Riner said. “Now, the Olympic dream begins. I want everyone to take pleasure, give their all and bring a lot of medals.”
Riner was reportedly given the distinction over basketball star Tony Parker and pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie, a world record holder and defending gold medalist. The 27-year-old Riner, judo’s defending heavyweight gold medalist, will lead 397 French athletes into the Rio Games.
Riner earned a bronze medal at the 2008 Games before capturing gold four years ago. He’s heavily favored to repeat as champion considering he has not lost a match since 2010. Riner is an eight-time world champion (the most ever), has won the last three world titles, and is the No. 1 men’s heavyweight in the world.
MORE: Who is Teddy Riner?