Team USA member Erin Hamlin was chosen to lead dozens of athletes through the Parade of Nations at the Winter Olympics opening ceremony on Friday
While Team USA member Erin Hamlin was chosen to lead dozens of athletes through the Parade of Nations at the Winter Olympics opening ceremony on Friday, American speed skater Shani Davis called into question the circumstances around her selection.
Davis, who was in contention to become flag bearer during a voting process led by Olympic officials, called the method in which Hamlin was picked “dishonorable” in a tweet shortly after the announcement.
In his post, Davis included a reference to February being Black History Month, hinting that he believes race may have played a part in the pick (Hamlin is white, and Davis is black).
Hamlin and Davis were two of eight nominees for flag bearer, each representing the eight winter sports federations (bobsled and skeleton, ski and snowboarding, figure skating, curling, biathlon, hockey, speedskating and luge.) With the final vote coming down to 4-4 between Hamlin and Davis, the U.S. Olympic Committee flipped a coin, and Hamlin was the winner, PEOPLE confirmed.
“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,” 35-year-old Davis, a five-time Olympian, wrote. “No problem. I can wait until 2022.#BlackHistoryMonth2018”
Citing the controversy, U.S. speed skater Joey Mantia told the Associated Press: “We feel strongly toward Shani and they felt strongly for Erin. That’s just that.”
USA Luge declined to comment when contacted by PEOPLE and representatives of the U.S. Olympic Committee did not comment. U.S. Speedskating also declined to comment, as did Hamlin. Davis’ agent did not return an email.
Hamlin is a 31-year-old four-time Olympian, having last competed in the games four years ago in Sochi when she became the first female American singles luger to medal in any Winter Olympics.
“Working hard and earning success is one thing, being acknowledged as a great representative and member of Team USA by fellow athletes – many who I have been inspired by – is above and beyond anything I’ve experienced,” Hamlin—who grew up in Remsen, New York—said in a statement. “It is definitely a privilege and honor to be the one to lead the team and will be a very special moment.”
During Friday’s opening ceremony in South Korea—which will officially kick off the 2018 Winter Olympics—Hamlin will be carrying the flag while leading 244 athletes, the largest U.S. contingent ever, according to NBC News.
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Regardless of this year’s controversy, Hamlin will not be the flag bearer at the next Winter Olympics: she plans to retire when the games in PyeongChang come to a close.
“I can now officially, officially say that I’m done,” she told NBC Sports. “Done. Now that I’m qualified I can say that I’m out [after the Games].”
• Reporting by ADAM CARLSON