Jewish basketball star Sue Bird will be one of Team USA’s two flag bearers at the Tokyo Olympics’ opening ceremony on Friday.
Bird, one of many Jewish athletes going for gold this summer, will be competing in her fifth Olympic games this summer. The 12-time WNBA All-Star has won gold at the last four Olympics with the US Women’s Basketball Team.
“I think that’s the best part, to be honest, to have your peers be the one to see your career and pick you to be the one to lead us in,” Bird tells the Today Show. The flag bearer, and the opening ceremony, has “always been” Bird’s favorite Olympics moment, “outside of winning, obviously,” she jokes. “So, to actually be named [flag bearer] now is mind-blowing.”
Bird — whose paternal grandparents immigrated to the US from what is now Ukraine in the early 1900s and changed their surname from “Boorda” to “Bird” — also holds Israeli citizenship.
For the first time in Olympic history, Team USA will have two flag bearers — the honor was also given to Eddy Alvarez, a former speed skating medalist who is now a baseball player in the Miami Marlins’ organization. Bird and Alvarez will wear special “air-conditioned jackets,” designed by Jewish fashion icon Ralph Lauren. (The Tokyo Olympics are set to be one of the hottest on record.)