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Tracee Hamilton - Sports Columnist

Grimmette given honor of carrying U.S. flag in Opening Ceremonies

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By Tracee Hamilton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 12, 2010

VANCOUVER, B.C.

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It'll be strange, seeing Mark Grimmette walk into BC Place on Friday night, all by himself, carrying the flag in front of the U.S. delegation at the Opening Ceremonies. Maybe he should strap Brian Martin to his back.

After all, Grimmette and Martin are almost inseparable for six months a year; in fact, in competition, they are sometimes indistinguishable. As longtime partners in doubles luge, Grimmette and Martin lie on their backs on a small sled and hurl down an icy track at 90 mph. Luge is not for the faint of heart, and doubles luge is not for loners. So will Grimmette miss Martin during his solo stint as flag-bearer?

"Well, if you see me look behind me to see where the other guy is while I'm carrying [the flag], that might be the reason," Grimmette said yesterday, laughing.

At 39, Grimmette is one of the oldest members of the U.S. Olympic team -- average age: 25 years and change -- and one of three Americans competing in their fifth Olympics (Todd Lodwick and Casey Puckett are the others). As luge team captain, Martin had a hand in the voting for flag-bearer and also got to deliver the good news afterward. "Brian said that the term 'elder statesman' came up [during the voting]," Grimmette said. "I just hope it wasn't elderLY."

Doubles luge is also not a sport for, say, Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton (doubles biathlon . . . maybe). Luge partners don't have to be BFFs, but if you're going to lie on top of someone else roughly 300 times a year, it would help if you enjoyed his company.

I had a chance last September to talk to Grimmette and Martin together, the way a doubles luge interview should be conducted, and I asked both if, like some longtime married couples, they ever got sick of each other.

"I never felt that," Grimmette said. But both agreed that time apart was one key to a successful relationship on the sled.

"At the end of the season, you want space away from the whole team and time to decompress from everything," said Martin, 36. "You've been traveling for five months straight, and you've been living out of a duffel bag, and there's nothing better than coming home and throwing your clothes on the floor and not having to pick them up at the end of the week."

Having common interests helps keep the relationship strong. Grimmette enjoys woodworking, and Martin sometimes uses his shop. Both are interested in science. Martin is into photography. Along with their marketing direction, they own a boat in Lake Placid, N.Y., where they live and train.

"It's an old piece-of-junk water-ski boat that we go wave surfing behind as much as we possible can," said Martin, whose job is to keep the boat at least barely running. "When I'm not trying to fix it, we're out there on the lake surfing behind it. There's nothing better than going out and surfing with two of your good friends for a couple of hours."


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