VANCOUVER, B.C. -- The U.S. Olympic Committee announced today that alpine skier Heath Calhoun (Bristol, Tenn.), a veteran of the Iraq war, has been selected as flag bearer for the U.S. Paralympic Team at Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games on March 12.
"I am incredibly honored that my team even nominated me for this," he said. "Just being part of Team USA is a huge honor so being selected from this talented group of athletes is something that I'm proud of. It's surprising but I'm very grateful."
Calhoun lost both his legs above the knees while he was serving as a squad leader for the famed 101st Airborne Division. "I was at the rear corner of the Humvee when the grenade hit the tail light right beside my right leg and exploded," he said. The attack killed another soldier, who Calhoun honors by wearing a bracelet etched with the soldiers name and date of the attack on his right wrist.
After enduring nine months of rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Calhoun became involved with Paralympic sports, and then in 2008, dedicated himself to competing at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games. He relocated from Virginia to train with Challenge Aspen, one of the nation's most prominent ski racing programs in Aspen, Colo., and was soon on his way to the top.
"I'm just thrilled to be representing my country in Vancouver," he said. "It's a little different than the role I was used to [serving in the military] but I take it just as seriously. I'm so honored to be here."
At the 2009 U.S. Paralympic Alpine National Championships Calhoun took second place in the men's sit-ski slalom and won gold in the men's sit-ski super G. In the same year, he finished in the top 10 in giant slalom at an International Paralympic Committee Alpine Skiing World Cup race in Vancouver.
In 2009, Ski Race Magazine named Calhoun the "Role Model of the Year," a sentiment that members of the U.S. Paralympic Team agreed with. He is also the Amputee Coalition of America's "Role Model of the Year" for 2008 and the recipient of the 2007 George C. Lang Courage Award Recipient from the Wounded Warrior Project.