Erin Hamlin, a four-time Olympian and the first American luger to win a medal at the Olympics, will be the flag bearer for Team USA during the Opening Ceremony at the 2018 games in Pyeongchang.
Hamlin, a 31-year-old New York native, is engaged to her longtime boyfriend, Jonathan Hodge, a 32-year-old teacher from Minnesota. They are set to be married this summer. Her future husband will be in South Korea to cheer her on.
Here’s what you need to know about Erin Hamlin and Jon Hodge:
1. Hodge & Hamlin First Met When They Were Kids & Then Struck Up a Long-Distance Relationship Reconnected After Reconnecting 4 Years Ago
Jonathan Hodge and Erin Hamlin have been dating for about four years. They first met when they were kids, and then reconnected more than 20 years later.
“It’s a crazy story,” Hodge told WDAY-TV.
Hodge first met Hamlin when he was 9, he told WDAY. He was staying with his father for the summer in New York (his parents had divorced and his mother had moved home to Minnesota with him), and his father was an electrician working on the Hamlin’s home. His father was friends with the Hamlins and Jon and his sister would play with Erin and her two brothers while his dad worked.
Hodge told WDAY he didn’t see Hamlin again until four years ago, when he went to his cousin’s high school graduation party in New York and ran into Erin, whose family was friends with his cousin’s family. That was three months after the Sochi Olympics.
“We starting talking, I put the full-court press on, and we struck up a little fling if you will,” Hodge told the news station. “From then on, she’s in season all fall and most of the winter and I have school, so we’ve been in a long-distance relationship. We’ve spent every summer together.”
2. He Proposed to Hamlin in July Using Cheerios & They Are Set to Be Married at Her Home in New York This Summer
Hodge proposed to Hamlin in July in a proposal that was inspired by an inside joke. Hodge told WDAY-TV that when he started dating Hamlin, they went out to get ice cream. He said he usually gets sprinkles, but forgot to ask for them, so instead he grabbed some Cheerios from a box in the back of Hamlin’s car. She kept it there for snacking on after training.
“I was missing the crunch, so I put some on,” Hodge told the news station. “It was awesome.”
Hamlin told Cosmopolitan about the proposal, “Jonathan proposed in July, totally on a whim. He had all these fun romantic plans but then he had the ring and it totally burned a hole in his pocket. It was a random Monday and he met me for lunch and decided on our way home, ‘I’m just gonna do it.’ We have an inside joke with Cheerios — so he got a box of Cheerios and some candles and set up candles all the way up the stairs to our apartment and wrote ‘WILL YOU MARRY ME?’ in Cheerios on the stairs.”
Hodge said when she opened the door he was waiting for her on one knee to ask her the question. She said yes, and the couple is set to be married this July in the backyard of Hamlin’s family’s Ramsen, New York home.
She told NBC Sports her summer wedding will give her something to look forward to when the Olympics are over.
“Pretty exciting,” Hamlin said. “It’s definitely adding a whole new aspect to an Olympic year, planning a wedding, but it’s cool. It gives me a good distraction when I need to think about something other than sliding.”
3. He Is a Physical Education Teacher & Has Gained His Own Fame for His Trick Shot Videos
Jon Hodge is an elementary school physical education teacher in his hometown of Barnesville, Minnesota. He has taught at both Barnesville Elementary School and Atkinson Elementary School, according to the district’s website.
He is a graduate of Barnesville High School and then attended St. Cloud State University, graduating with a degree in physical education, according to his Linkedin profile. He also has a graduate degree in special education.
In addition to being a teacher, Hodge is also a youth basketball coach and runs a basketball training program. He also worked for three years as an assistant basketball coach at Hamline University.
Hodge has earned some fame of his own through video compilations of basketball trick shots he has made in front his students in the school gym. You can watch some of his shots, which he takes to entertain his students every Friday, below:
One of his trickshot videos was even featured on the ABC show “America’s Funniest Home Videos” in October. Hodge’s future mother-in-law encouraged him to send in the video after hearing about a contest AFV was having. You can listen to a local radio interview about how that happened here.
4. Hodge Has Helped Hamlin With Her Training & They Joked That He Was ‘On the Road to Pyeongchang as Much’ as She Was
Hamlin told NBC Sports that her boyfriend spent the summer helping her train for Pyeongchang.
“Some days I have one of my parents out helping me in some way, whether taking video or timing things, my boyfriend helps out the same, and when my brothers or other family members (most live in the area) are around they never hesitate to lend a hand, encourage (heckle??) or even jump in and workout with me,” she said. “This helps when I am training away from the team. It is always nice to have people around and others there to push me. My boyfriend and I actually joke around about it, he says he is on the road to PyeongChang as much as I am. He is a teacher so with summers off so a lot of his time and activities are based around my schedule (his choice!) which is a lot of fun.”
Hamlin said her family, along with her fiance, were key in helping her prepare for this year’s Olympics, and throughout her career.
“I have a big family. And they didn’t really know what luge was,” Hamlin told WKTV. “And they jumped in blindly, full-on like, ‘Yep, we’re gonna start going to Lake Placid and use our vacation time at work to go up there every year, and stand in the cold, and cheer you on, and see you go by for, like, a quarter of a second.’ Like, they were all about it. And that’s been something that has been so cool.”
5. Hamlin Will Carry the Flag at the Head of the U.S. Delegation & Will Then Aim for Her Second Luge Medal in Her Final Olympics
Hamlin, who won the bronze in 2014, will take aim at her second medal in what will be her fourth and final Olympics. She was surprised to learn that she had been picked to be Team USA’s flag bearer.
“Being named to an Olympic Team is an amazing accomplishment, and making four teams and winning the bronze medal is so much more than I could I have imagined I would accomplish,” Hamlin said in a statement. “Now being voted flag bearer is a whole new level. Working hard and earning success is one thing, (but) being acknowledged as a great representative and member of Team USA by fellow athletes — many who I have been inspired by — is above and beyond anything I’ve experienced.”
She will lead the team’s 244 athletes into the Opening Ceremony.
Hodge told WDAY-TV he enjoys watching Hamlin compete.
“First time I saw her live was in Utah. It’s just a different event. It’s not a sporting event that you’ve ever really heard of, so to be able to see that or within feet of the track and the blink of an eye seeing them go by was crazy,” he told WDAY. “Up front for me, I was like holy cow. I’ve seen a lot of sporting events and it gave me a feeling that’s a little bit terrifying, but as time has gone it’s gotten more fun. At the same time it’s a rush. As much of adrenaline she’s experiencing, her fans have almost as much. It’s exciting and there’s a little terror associated.”
Hamlin’s first run will be Monday, February 12, between 5:30 a.m. to 7 a.m. Eastern. Her second run will be Tuesday, February 13, between 7:30 to 9 a.m.
Hamlin said she is approaching this year’s Olympics the same as she did in 2014.
“Going into the  Olympics, I had no idea I was going to be back here in four years,” Hamlin told TeamUSA.org. “In that moment, I went in thinking this could be my last Olympics. I could never be on this stage again, so I really went into with a mindset of have fun, enjoy every minute of it, soak it all in. And it turned out pretty good. … Since 2014, seeing the leaps and bounds our team has made, I think winning that medal kind of got the ball rolling. I’m very glad I was able to set that bar and hopefully it will continue to be raised.”
Hamlin said she hopes to inspire others to follow in her footsteps.
“Knowing the impact you’re having on kids and how many lives you could potentially change, that’s one of the greatest things about sport and about the Olympics,” Hamlin said. “To be on this platform and to know I broke that barrier so girls in the U.S., if they’re interested in luge, can say, ‘Oh, we’ve medaled in that sport so it’s possible. I can do that.'”
Hodge told WDAY they aren’t sure what the future will hold, whether they will settle in New York or Minnesota.
“That’s the million-dollar question that doesn’t have a million-dollar answer,” Hodge said.