Five-time Olympian Chris Witty will carry the flag for the U.S. Olympic team at Friday night's opening ceremonies for the Turin Winter Games.
Long track speed skater Chris Witty was selected for the honor by a group of athletes from each of the U.S. sports teams here. The 30-year-old Witty has participated in three previous Winter Olympics and also competed as a cyclist at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
She said she is surprised and honored to carry the U.S. flag because there are so many deserving athletes.
"I know that's one of the greatest moments, is to take part in an opening ceremonies, to walk into the stadium and be, as a team, representing your country," she said. "But to carry the flag, I have no idea what that's going to be like. I think it's just going to be amazing, and I'm looking forward to it."
Chris Witty won the only speed skating medals for the United States at the 1998 Nagano Olympics with a silver and a bronze. She broke the world record in winning the one thousand meters gold medal (1:13.83) in Salt Lake City four years ago.
That performance came as a surprise to most observers, because entering the Salt Lake Games Witty had complained of fatigue, and it was thought she might have mononucleosis.
Only a few people, including the U.S. team psychologist, knew that her fatigue was caused by emotional stress from childhood sexual abuse. She went public with her story in late 2004. She now freely talks about her past and speaks at schools to inform children on how to prevent sexual molestation. Witty says being an Olympian again gives her another opportunity to get out her message.
"Abuse of any kind exists because of secrecy, and if I can use this platform and just start talking about it, my hope is other people will talk about it, break the silence," Witty said. "And maybe if it's already happened to somebody in their life, they can get the help and support they need by talking about it. Or if you're a parent, you'll have the courage to talk to your children about it, about good touch and bad touch. And if you're a child, you know that you can say "no." Just breaking the silence, just get people to talk about it, because it's such a common problem and it doesn't need to be. All you have to do is talk about it and break the silence."
Chris Witty says she will continue to share her story because it's made a huge difference in her life. The speed skater knows she will have other thoughts to share after carrying the U.S. flag at the opening ceremonies. Then she plans to compete in the 500, 1,000 and 1,500 meters.