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Flag-bearer remembers when U.S. sliders were born losers, not lugers

February 11, 2010 |  2:01 pm

Grimmette

Two other luge athletes have carried the flag for the United States in Olympic opening ceremonies: Frank Masley in 1984 and Cammy Myler in 1994.

But it wasn't until 1998 that the U.S. won a medal in the German- and Italian-dominated sport.

Mark Grimmette of Muskegon, Mich., who will carry the flag Friday, began sliding 26 years ago and competed in his first of five Olympics in 1994. He remembers the bad old days.

"When I first got into it, the U.S. team was the example of what not to do when you go down the track," Grimmette said Thursday. "The European nations would come to the track and watch us for maybe a little bit of excitement.

"Slowly, over the years, one of the guys I slid with, Gordy Sheer, and I pushed one another. The camaraderie we had with one another pushed us into the right direction."

In 1998, both Sheer (with Chris Thorpe) and Grimmette (with his current partner, Brian Martin) won silver and bronze medals, respectively, in doubles luge. Grimmette and Martin added a silver in 2002.

At 39, Grimmette is one of the oldest athletes on the 2010 U.S. Olympic team. (There are two 40-year-olds in curling). He figures that was a factor in being selected by his fellow athletes as flag bearer in a vote of team captains.

"Brian [the luge team captain] told me the term 'elder statesman' came up a lot,"' Grimmette said.  "I hope it wasn't just 'elderly."

-- Philip Hersh in Vancouver

Photo: Wearing a new racing suit to be used for the Vancouver Winter Olympics, U.S. luge team member Mark Grimmette takes part in a wind tunnel test earlier this month at the San Diego Air and Space Museum. Credit: Lenny Ignelzi / Associated Press

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