BEIJING - The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee today announced that three-time Paralympic snowboarder Keith Gabel was elected to lead the 2022 U.S. Winter Paralympic Team as flag bearer into Sunday’s Closing Ceremony of the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. Chosen by a vote of fellow U.S. teammates, Gabel will lead nearly 50 athletes into the Beijing National Stadium.
“When they told me, I almost started crying,” said Gabel. “I’ve been to three Games now and there’s been such highs and lows with competition, it brings it all together to get the honor to bring Team USA out for the last time in Beijing.”
“There’s been so many changes for Para snowboard as a whole. The level of competitiveness is tremendous… any given day, it’s any athlete's race. Yesterday was a great example - from the men’s LL1 podium to fifth-place, it was split by five one-hundredths of a second. The level of competition has risen to the occasion and it makes me super proud. It’s an extreme amount of pride for me from where we started to where we are.”
A pioneer in the sport, Gabel was instrumental in Para snowboarding’s inclusion on the Winter Paralympic program. The Utah native made his first Paralympic appearance in the sport’s debut at the Paralympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 where he took bronze in the men’s snowboardcross. He took silver in the same event four years later at the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. In a highly contested field, Gabel grabbed a world’s seventh-best finish at Beijing 2022 in both the men’s LL2 snowboardcross and banked slalom events.
“To be a part of the whole push just to get the sport in and to have the opportunity to still be in the sport, be amongst the best and still be competitive has given me the opportunity to watch every single athlete that’s been in the field at this point start their career and see their growth,” Gabel said.
Gabel joins an honorary group of U.S. flag bearers which includes Paralympic alpine skiers Danelle Umstead and Tyler Carter who were previously selected to lead the 67-member 2022 delegation in the Opening Ceremony.
NBC will provide live coverage of the Beijing 2022 Closing Ceremony from 7:30-10:00 a.m. ET on Sunday, March 13 across USA Network and Peacock.