Peterson honored by U.S. teammates

Speed skater to carry flag during opening ceremony



February 08, 2002|By Kevin Van Valkenburg and Candus Thomson | Kevin Van Valkenburg and Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

SALT LAKE CITY - Not so long ago, chronic fatigue syndrome made Amy Peterson's life a daily struggle. Some days, she barely had the strength to walk across a room.

Tonight, the entire world will be focused on her every step. Peterson, a short-track speed skater who overcame her illness and will compete in her fifth Olympics, was selected by her U.S. teammates to carry the American flag during the opening ceremony.

"I was totally overwhelmed to be selected by my teammates," Peterson said. "When I told my mother, she kept saying, `Are you serious? Are you serious?' and I said, `Mom, I wouldn't make something like that up.' "

Peterson was selected through a secret ballot by the eight captains of the U.S. teams. The flag she will carry won't be the flag recovered from ground zero in New York City. Eight other U.S. athletes were selected to carry the ground zero flag into the Parade of Nations with members of Port Authority Police Department: Kristina Sabasteanski (biathlon), Lea Ann Parsley (skeleton), Stacy Liapis (curling), Todd Eldredge (figure skating), Angela Ruggiero (ice hockey), Mark Grimmette (luge), Chris Klug (snowboarding), and Derek Parra (speed skating).

Jim Shea Jr., a third-generation Olympian competing in the skeleton, was selected to give the athletes' oath. Shea's father, Jim Sr., was a nordic combined skier for the United States in the 1964 Olympics, and his grandfather, Jack, won two gold medals in the 1932 games in speed skating.

Have a light?

Who will light the caldron tonight to signal the start of the Winter Games?

Whoever it is was selected last summer by Mitt Romney, president of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, and endorsed by his family at their New Hampshire summer home.

That choice hasn't changed, Romney said, even in light of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

"We listened to some others and wavered when we heard some of the suggestions, but we stuck with it," he said.

A handful of top SLOC and NBC officials have been clued in, but the caldron lighter still doesn't know.

That person is part of a group that has been told it has roles in the opening ceremony, but not what those roles are.

Speculation has centered the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" men's hockey team and speed skater Bonnie Blair.

No stickers

In the International Olympic Committee's eyes, there's a fine line between patriotism and political statements.

A few months ago, luger Tony Benshoof designed a small sticker on his computer to display on his sled during World Cup events with the words, "We remember the innocent victims of September 11" in red, white and blue. Both the men's and women's luge teams displayed the stickers on their sleds, and soon, hundreds of athletes from other countries were asking the U.S. team for extras.

"We had to print up about 200 of them because so many people wanted them," Benshoof said. "It was really cool to see that."

However, before the Olympics, the IOC informed the American team it needed to remove the stickers from its sleds before the games.

"We understood that the [World Trade Center] flag was the most proper way to show our respect," said Grimmette. "It represents so much. You're not allowed to have certain things on your sleds, so we understood."

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