Politics

Michelle Obama Revels in Role of Leading U.S. Olympic Delegation

Fri., Jul. 27, 2012 4:20 PM EDT
by Terry Shropshire

It’s written all over first lady Michelle Obama’s face: she is having the time of her life.

Obama had never even attended the Olympic games during her nearly five decades on earth. Now, she is leading the U.S. delegation that will open up the London Olympics on Friday, July 28 2012. And she is not even trying to hide her unbridled joy.

FLOTUS — First Lady of the United States — has played a little tennis with kids, handed out some hugs and posed for photos with America’s best athletes Friday as she formally began her stint leading the U.S. Olympics delegation.

The U.S. first lady told a crowd of young people that the Summer Games are about more than just gold medals — but also urged U.S. athletes in London to strive to claim top prizes all the same.

“Try to have fun. Try to breathe a little bit,” Mrs. Obama told American athletes at a breakfast in east London near the Olympic Park. “But it’s about winning, right?”

Obama told the athletes that she is “just in awe” of their company, told the athletes that some of her fondest sports memories stemmed from watching the Olympics on television. She shared the story of her father, who was athletic but contracted multiple sclerosis “in the prime of his life.”

“He retained his love of sports, truly,” Mrs. Obama said. “And the Olympics was a special time for him to watch amazing athletes of all abilities compete on the world stage.”

Among the Olympians attending were two-time fencing gold medalist Mariel Zagunis, who will carry the nation’s flag into the opening ceremony, along with the U.S. women’s basketball team and track and field members.

“Being here is otherworldly for me,” the first lady said. “I am still so inspired.”

Later, she was scheduled to attend a reception hosted by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace and then go to the London Olympics opening ceremony.

FLOTUS takes her "Let's Move" program across the pond and into London prior to the Olympic games

On the vast lawn of Winfield House, the residence of the U.S. ambassador to Britain, Mrs. Obama also joined some 1,000 children — many from U.S. military families based in Britain and others from underprivileged London neighborhoods — at a sports carnival.

“I’m so excited,” Mrs. Obama told the children as a marching band played the University of Florida fight song.

The first lady shared the stage with a host of sports stars, including England’s ex-soccer captain David Beckham and U.S. gold medal winners Carl Lewis, Summer Sanders and Brandi Chastain.

Mrs. Obama told the children to draw encouragement from athletes like gymnast Shawn Johnson — who once considered quitting — and from Paralympian Gabe Diaz de Leon, an army veteran who trained to compete in the discus, shot put and javelin after he was paralyzed on operations in Honduras.

“The stories of these athletes remind us that being an Olympian is not just about winning a gold or setting a record. It’s about pushing yourself and believing in yourself and refusing to give up,” she told the children. “No matter what obstacles you face, keep pushing.”

Mrs. Obama later tried out a host of sports alongside the children.

Lewis praised the first lady’s “Let’s Move!” campaign, which is aimed at tackling childhood obesity and promoting sports.

“She has proven and shown that both she and the president love the Olympics and the Olympic movement,” the ex-sprinter said.

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