Just hours before the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, Team USA got a very special, all-American visitor: First Lady Michelle Obama.
Obama arrived in London as head of the Presidential Delegation to the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games. About 60 U.S. athletes were able to meet her personally this morning during her breakfast-time appearance at the University of East London.
The first lady’s trip to London is part of her ongoing campaign to encourage America’s youth to take part in regular exercise. She told the athletes she is in awe of their abilities and commitment and described the experience of attending her first Olympic Games as “other-worldly.”
“I can’t begin to tell you how amazing it is to be leading the delegation ahead of the ceremonies for the 2012 Olympic games,” the first lady told the athletes. “Some of my fondest memories growing up, and even as an adult, involve watching the Olympics on TV.”
The First Lady told Team USA that she was inspired as a child by the incredible abilities of Olympic athletes, and that she and her brother one day dreamed of achieving something great as well. The first lady also shared a personal story about her father’s MS diagnosis and how the Olympics became an incredibly important time for her family.
“My father wasn’t able to walk without the assistance of crutches,” she said. “He retained his love of sports and the Olympics was a special time for him to watch amazing athletes of all abilities compete on the world stage. These games especially affected our little house on the south side of Chicago.”
She finished her remarks with a bit of advice to athletes: “Try to have fun, try to breath a little bit… but also win. In the end, winning is good.”
The first lady spent 30 minutes mingling with members of Team USA, often hugging them, and posing for photos.
“It made me feel really proud to be an American. To have her here supporting us means a lot,” said fencer Tim Morehouse, who did acknowledge that it was an early morning for the day of the opening ceremony.
“We’ve got our naps planned,” he added.
“I was just so excited to meet her and be able to take pictures with her, and she actually hugged us,” women’s table tennis player Ariel Hsing, 16, told Metro. “I just thought that was incredible.”
Now, athletes will return their attention to tonight’s long-awaited opening ceremony. An air of anticipation seemed to follow Team USA this morning.
“I’m marching this time,” Olympic hurdler and gold medalist Angelo Taylor told Metro. This is his third Olympic experience, but tonight will be his first time participating in the opening ceremony.
“I’m excited, I’m looking forward to the show. I’m looking to see what’s different this year,” Taylor said.
1994 Olympic gold medalist and basketball great Grant Hill, who is accompanying the first lady as part of the Presidential Delegation, offered his own words of wisdom to young athletes who may be feeling the pressure as the games begin.
“Relax, have fun. If you’re not prepared by now, you’re not going to be prepared,” Grant said. “So just go out and do what you do best. There’s a reason why you’re here.”
(Photo by Errol Anderson)