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Chuck Aoki and Melissa Stockwell will take on an important role for the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Summer Paralympic Games.
On Monday, the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee announced that the wheelchair rugby player, 30, and paratriathlete, 41, will serve as flag bearers at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Games, which are scheduled to begin on Tuesday.
After being chosen by a vote of fellow Team USA athletes, Aoki and Stockwell will make history as the first duo to lead the Paralympic delegation.
In the past, one individual has served as the flag bearer during the opening ceremony, but it was changed to two this year after the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) announced in March 2020 that one male and one female would represent each nation in "promotion of gender parity," according to a release. The IPC also required that at least one male and one female athlete be included in each of the 162 national delegations that will compete in Tokyo.
Aoki, a three-time Paralympian, won a silver medal during Rio 2016 and a bronze medal in London 2012, while Stockwell won a bronze medal in Rio 2016 — the triathlon's debut at the Paralympic Games.
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"Being selected flag bearer is such a stunning honor that I never expected," shared Aoki in a statement. "We have an incredible group of athletes in our delegation and to be selected by my peers is amazing. I also want to thank my family and my teammates for all of their support. I would not be in this position or be the athlete I am without them. When I am bringing in the flag, it is for all of them as well."
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Stockwell said in a release that she is honored and humbled after being chosen as a flag bearer, noting that she's not only representing her country and sport but her Paralympic family.
"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," Stockwell added. "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."
The Paralympic Games will feature approximately 4,400 athletes with physical disabilities competing in 539 medal events.
The opening ceremony will be held Tuesday at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium. Of the 242 athletes who were named to the U.S. Paralympic Team, more than 115 athletes are set to attend the ceremony.