WNBA legend Bird picked as U.S. co-flag bearer for Olympic opening ceremony
Sue Bird’s fifth Olympic Games just got that much more historic.
The New York Christ the King and UConn alumna was selected by her fellow Team USA athletes as a co-flag bearer for the Olympic opening ceremony in Tokyo, which will be held on Friday.
“People always ask me what my favorite Olympic moment is,” Bird, also a four-time champion with the Seattle Storm, said on “Today” Wednesday morning, “and it’s always been that in 2004, my teammate at the time who’s now my coach, Dawn Staley, she was selected as the flag bearer and we got to be in the front with her and that’s always been my favorite moment outside of winning, obviously.
“So to actually be doing that now is mind blowing.”
That year, 2004, was Bird’s first Games and ended with her winning her first Olympic gold medal. This year, she and fellow Olympic veteran Diana Taurasi, will try for an unprecedented fifth straight gold, something no Olympic men’s or women’s basketball player has accomplished ... yet.
Bird — who played in a 12th All-Star Game before shipping off to Tokyo with the rest of USA Basketball — was informed of her selection as a flag bearer by Taurasi, her fellow WNBA great and best friend. Bird, who’ll turn 41 in October, said the moment and a historic fifth gold medal would be that much better because Taurasi will be next to her, just as she has been since they played at UConn together.
When Taurasi told her she would be the flag bearer in front of her team, Bird smiled and covered her face with her hand. Her team chanted “speech!”
“Obviously I’m not making a speech, but anything I get has to do with the people that are here and do it with me,” Bird told her team. “It’s never on one person, that’s how I feel. So I think this is just another moment that exemplifies that. So thank you, all of you, for being a part of that.”
The first person she reached out to with the news was Megan Rapinoe, the outspoken leader of the U.S. women’s national soccer team and Bird’s fiancee.
“I did text Megan right away,” Bird said. “She already knew!”
Bird and Taurasi’s campaign for Gold No. 5 will start Tuesday in a preliminary-round game against Nigeria. Team USA previously beat Nigeria on July 18 in an exhibition game in Las Vegas. They’ll round out the preliminary round with a game against the host country, Japan, and then against France.
Bird will march up front on Friday alongside her team and co-flag bearer, USA Baseball infielder Eddy Alvarez. Alvarez also won a silver medal as a speed skater at the Winter Games in Sochi in 2014. This is the first time baseball will be played in the Games since it was removed two cycles ago.
Alvarez also plays in the Miami Marlins minor league system.