Melissa Stockwell and Chuck Aoki are Team USA's flag bearers for the Paralympic Games opening ceremony on Aug. 24. When Stockwell made it to the 2008 Paralympics for swimming, she became the first Iraq War veteran to qualify. This will be her third Paralympics and her second competing in paratriathlon; she claimed PT2 paratriathlon bronze in 2016 (this classification is now PTS2). Aoki is headed to his third Paralympics as a wheelchair rugby player after helping the team win a bronze medal in 2012 and a silver in 2016.
Stockwell said in a statement that, as a veteran, carrying the flag is an honor. "The Paralympics are a showcase of what we can overcome with the power of the human body and the human spirit, and I'm just so proud of where my story has brought me. I'm proud to have the opportunity to represent Team USA at the Paralympics, and I'm ready for Team USA to showcase our athletic ability to the world." Stockwell, who was the flag bearer at the Beijing Paralympics closing ceremony and who is a three-time ITU Paratriathlon world champion, added on Instagram, "It's like a dream that just keeps getting better and better."
Aoki, who has three world championship medals, stated, "We have an incredible group of athletes in our delegation, to be selected by my peers is amazing. I also want to thank my family and my teammates for all of their support." He further posted on Instagram, "Tomorrow, I'll be holding that flag for everyone in my life who has supported me in every step of my journey. My family, my friends, doctors, teachers, coaches, co-workers, and my teammates. I wouldn't be here without any of you-you have all shaped me into the person I am today."
Like in the Olympics earlier this summer, this is the first time that the Paralympics opening ceremony is allowing one man and one woman flag bearer for each participating national team. Over 115 out of the 242 athletes on the US Paralympic team will attend. You can watch it live on NBCSN Aug. 24 at 7 a.m. ET, then again at 7 p.m. ET. Pool play for wheelchair rugby starts Aug. 25, and paratriathlon medal events begin Aug. 28.