NANJING, China – Women’s rugby team co-captain Richelle Stephens (Fallbrook, Calif.) was selected to lead the 92-member 2014 U.S. Youth Olympic Team into Thursday’s (Aug. 28) Closing Ceremony as flag bearer, as announced today by the United States Olympic Committee. Stephens was chosen by a vote of fellow members of Team USA.
“I’m really excited to represent Team USA and equally excited to represent USA Rugby, since it’s the first time women’s rugby has been on an Olympic program of any kind,” said Stephens. “It’s starting a new frontier, and I can’t wait to cap this journey by carrying our flag into the Closing Ceremony.”
In the historic debut of rugby sevens at the Youth Olympic Games, Stephens led the U.S. women to the bronze-medal match, in which Team USA earned a fourth-place finish. One of the few players on the 12-member team to be invited to train at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California, Stephens demonstrated the camaraderie of the Youth Olympic Games in supporting fellow teammates during competition. The 18-year-old also played a critical role as an ambassador for Team USA, participating in the International Rugby Board’s “Get Into Rugby” program that featured visits to local schools during the Nanjing Games.
With rugby’s highly anticipated return to the Olympic program at the Rio 2016 Games, Stephens has served as a positive role model for future U.S. women’s rugby players on both the Youth Olympic and Olympic stage.
“I’m thrilled to congratulate Richelle on this honor,” said Charlie Paddock, chef de mission for Team USA. “With the exciting debut of rugby at the Youth Olympic Games, she has been a tremendous ambassador for her sport and our athletes, and will continue to be a world-class representative of our nation at the Closing Ceremony.”
“We are so honored. We came to Nanjing wanting to showcase rugby, but to also let the other athletes know that we were here to support them, and as our co-captain, Richelle has been leading that effort,” said head coach Richie Walker. “It was very important for us to set a good example and spread the great word about the Youth Olympic Games. Richelle really loves everything about the Olympics and Team USA, so I know this is really special for her.”
Following 13 days of competition, the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games will conclude with the Closing Ceremony, scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. at the Olympic Sports Center Stadium. The second summer edition of the Youth Games featured 3,800 athletes from more than 200 nations and included all 28 sports on the program for the Rio 2016 Games.