Team USA Shares Pride at Paralympic Games Flag Raising Ceremony

Sept. 05, 2008, 12:35 p.m. (ET)

BEIJING, China--As night fell on the Athlete Village Friday evening, Sept. 5, Team USA gathered at the International Zone and filed into the amphitheater for a brief flag-raising ceremony. Other delegations had gathered earlier for their country flags to be raised, and at this final ceremony of the night, the U.S. delegation joined Colombia, Chile, Kuwait, and Lesotho.

As each country’s flag arose, its national anthem
played. U.S. Chef de Mission Jeff Underwood
represented Team USA, and following the ceremony, distinguished guests from the U.S. Presidential Delegation greeted the U.S. athletes, including The Honorable James B. Peake, Secretary of Veterans Affairs; The Honorable Clark T. Randt, Jr., U.S. Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China; Mr. Kirk Bauer, Executive Director of Disabled Sports USA; Jean Driscoll, Paralympic gold medalist (Track); Lt. Col. Gregory Gadson, U.S. Army; Kevin Szott, Paralympic gold medalist (Judo); and Trischa Zorn, Paralympic gold medalist (Swimming).

Several of the athletes expressed their impressions of the evening and their excitement for the upcoming competition.

Swimmer Beth Kolbe (Tiffin, Ohio), who is competing at her first Paralympic Games, said, “It was incredible to see the American flag being raised. I hope to see a lot more of that at competition. This is a really great opportunity to see the entire delegation together and connect with all the U.S. athletes.”

It’s just been amazing,” said rower Scott Brown (Collingdale, Penn.) “I can’t believe it’s really  happening. It feels like I’m fulfilling the dream, and I have to keep pinching myself.”

Swim team captain Erin Popovich (Fort Collins, Colo./Silverbow, Mont.) said, “It was professional and very well done. They did a great job of representing all of the countries. The mayor talked about accepting all different cultures, abilities, and disabilities—getting to know one another and experiencing everything together.”

Archer Eric Bennett (Surprise, Ariz.), a first-time Paralympian, said “I find being here truly amazing. Tonight has been very inspirational and I hope to see the flag raised for my teammates and me later this week.”

Casey Tibbs (Austin, Tex.), a track and field athlete and the only active duty service member (U.S. Navy) on the team, said, “The moment I saw the Bird’s Nest, it gave me goose bumps. It’s such an honor, and I hope my participation gives other service members opportunities that I have had.”