"It's been such an honor to be on the periphery of all those medals over so many years. I feel very seen and very cared for to be in this position," Kara Winger told reporters


And with a second procession of flags and a second parade of athletes, the participating countries in the Tokyo Summer Olympics made their farewell appearances at the Games on Sunday night during the closing ceremony.

The U.S. selected Kara Winger, a javelin thrower and four-time Olympian, to be the flagbearer for the evening — which she called an "honor," even more so because it was by a vote of the other American athletes.

After the procession, competitors from many of the participating countries poured in around the flagbearers, who had formed a large ring.

(Many other athletes were not in attendance, having had to leave the country after their events because of pandemic protocols.)

"I'm so amazed to have been surrounded by legends for my whole career," Winger, 35, told reporters on Sunday about being selected to carry the flag. "This Olympics is special because it feels like maybe the United States can recognize that the Olympic spirit is participation."

Baseball player Eddy Alvarez and basketball player Sue Bird were the U.S. flagbearers at the opening ceremony.

Kara Winger
American flagbearer Kara Winger
| Credit: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

"For legends on USA [track and field] and Team USA as a whole to vote for me, someone who hasn't even been in a final, is extremely meaningful," Winger said Sunday.

Last week, she reflected on Instagram on her most recent appearance in the javelin throw — in which, as with her previous Olympics, she failed to advance close to the podium.

That might seem a disappointment, but it actually brought her another feeling, she wrote.

"There's an odd peace around knowing I'll never be an Olympic finalist: I don't have unfinished business here anymore. If I am just meant to support the amazing teammates around me, I accept that," she wrote before praising fellow American Brittney Reese, who got silver in women's long jump.

"I've always just tried to lift others up and celebrate their successes," Winger told reporters on Sunday. "It's been such an honor to be on the periphery of all those medals over so many years. I feel very seen and very cared for to be in this position."

"It's a huge honor that I'll never top," she said.

The Olympic closing ceremony caps a competition unlike any other, because of COVID-19 which meant strict public health restrictions such as the lack of spectators.