Skyview High School graduate Kara Winger will put a cap on her Olympic career on Sunday when she will be the flag bearer for the U.S. Olympic team at the closing ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics.
The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee announced Friday that Winger was selected by a vote of her fellow Team USA athletes to carry the flag and lead Team USA into the stadium for the closing ceremonies.
“This cannot be real life,” Winger posted on her Instagram account. “It’s a dream I didn’t know to dream. I’m pretty good with words, but my appreciation for this overwhelming honor might be beyond description.”
Winger, 35, competed in the javelin in track and field in her fourth Olympics in Tokyo.
“There are so many reasons why being elected flag bearer means the entire world to me,” Winger said. “Track and Field transformed my worldview early in my journey. More often than not, I’m in the racial minority on (the U.S. track and field team). The fact that the diverse and incredible women of this team elected me their captain is extremely humbling. I have always taken solace in cheering my teammates on, offering comfort, or distracting from nerves with random conversation after my own disappointments. I feel incredibly cared for by my teammates seeing me. Traveling the world for this simple and awesome sport we do has exposed me to countless cultures, allowed me to form priceless relationships with competitors from other countries too, and showed me time and time again that athletics is about so much more than athletics.”
Winger was previously selected as one of two team captains for the U.S. track and field team in Tokyo.
“It’s an incredible honor to be selected by my fellow Team USA athletes to be our flag bearer,” Winger said. “There’s no better way to conclude my career as an Olympic athlete than to lead the U.S. team into the Closing Ceremony. On behalf of Team USA, we want to thank the Tokyo Organizing Committee, the people of Tokyo and the country of Japan for hosting these Olympic Games and bringing the world back together again through sport.”
Earlier this week, she placed 17th, marking her second-best career performance in the Games.
“I’ve never made a final, much less medaled,” said Winger, the U.S. record holder in the women’s javelin for 11 years until it was broken last month. “That often feels embarrassing as an American. But if there were ever an Olympics to shout the below Pierre de Coubertin quote from the rooftops, it’s this one: ‘The important thing in the Olympics is not winning but taking part. the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.’ ”
Winger originally planned to compete in the Tokyo Olympics last summer, then conclude her track and field career at the World Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore., originally scheduled for this summer.
That would have marked 20 years since Winger first picked up a javelin at the behest of her geometry teacher — who also happened to be the school’s track and field coach — when Winger (then Kara Patterson) was a freshman at Skyview High School.
But then the pandemic delayed those plans by a year.
Then those plans were put into jeopardy when Winger tore a knee ligament last summer. But she worked her way back to qualify for a fourth Olympics in the U.S. trials in Eugene in June.
“We all freaking made it here,” Winger said. “Japan and the USOPC and the IOC and the fleets of volunteers made this Olympics happen under impossible circumstances, and every single athlete on every single team at these Games overcame so much. That’s true every Olympic year, but it is true this Olympic year. You’re probably sick of hearing about my knee by now, but I’m still crazy proud to be wearing this uniform again at all.”
The closing ceremonies will begin at 4 a.m. Sunday Pacific Time. It was viewed lived on the Peacock network, NBCOlympics.com or the NBC Sports app. It will also be shown as part of NBC’s primetime presentation of the Closing Ceremony at 5 p.m. Sunday.
U.S. Olympic Team Flag Bearers — Closing Ceremonies (summer only)
1952: Bob Kurland, Basketball
1956: Pete Rademacher, Boxing
1960: Mike Troy, Swimming
1964: Don Schollander, Swimming
1968: Al Oerter, Track and Field
1972: Mike Burton, Swimming
1976: Willie Davenport, Track and Field
1984: Jeff Blatnick Wrestling
1988: Terry Schroeder, Water Polo
1992: Peter Westbrook, Fencing
1996: Michael Matz, Equestrian
2000: Rulon Gardner, Wrestling
2004: Mia Hamm, Soccer
2008: Khatuna Lorig, Archery
2012: Bryshon Nellum, Track and Field
2016: Simone Biles, Gymnastics
2020: Kara Winger, Track and Field