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Grimmette to lead US team at opening ceremony

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — At his fifth Olympics, it's a first for luge athlete Mark Grimmette, chosen to be the flagbearer for the U.S. team at Friday's opening ceremony.

Grimmette, the fourth American to compete at five Winter Olympics, won the vote of the American delegation Wednesday and will lead the team of 216 U.S. athletes. He was told of the decision by his longtime sliding partner, Brian Martin.

"It's an unbelievable honor," Grimmette, of Muskegon, Mich., and Lake Placid, N.Y., told The Associated Press on Wednesday night, shortly after the U.S. Olympic Committee announced the results. "There's a lot of great men and women on this Olympic team and being chosen to represent them and carry the flag ... it's right up there for me."

Grimmette was having a quiet night in Vancouver, just getting caught up on some reading.

Little did he know what was coming when Martin burst into the room.

"He seemed shaken, shaken with excitement," Grimmette told the AP. "Then he told me and gave me a hug, and for the next half-hour he and I were both shaken."

USA Luge CEO Ron Rossi said he couldn't be more thrilled for Grimmette.

"Mark epitomizes the definition of an Olympian, hard-working, humble, and unassuming, a person who always looks to give back before he ever accepts something for himself, and an individual who always thinks of the team first, even in an individual sport," Rossi said in a statement.

The 39-year-old Grimmette, who already has bronze and silver Olympic medals, almost didn't make these Olympics. He and Martin needed to win a December race-off against American teammates Matt Mortensen and Preston Griffall to make the Vancouver-bound team. The U.S. sent two doubles sleds to the Vancouver Games, with Grimmette and Martin — the most decorated American team ever — joining Christian Niccum and Dan Joye.

Grimmette, Nordic combined skier Todd Lodwick and freestyle skier Casey Puckett are all making their fifth appearance in the Winter Olympics. Before them, only bobsledder Brian Shimer had been to five for the U.S.

Grimmette becomes the third luge racer to carry the American flag, joining Frank Masley (1984) and Cammy Myler (1994).

"The exposure for the sport of luge is great," Grimmette said. "We're a small organization, but a hard-working organization."