‘Fan-in-Chief’ Obama Salutes Olympic, Paralympic Athletes at White House

400 meter gold medal winner Sonja Richards grabs a quick photo with Pres. Obama

Declaring himself the “Fan-in Chief,” President Obama hailed the 2012 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes Friday as a portrait of what sets America apart: Men and women of all races, faiths and backgrounds who push themselves to extend the boundaries of achievement.

“What you guys did was inspire us. You made us proud,” Obama told more than 450 athletes honored in ceremonies on the South Lawn of the White House.

“You could not have been better ambassadors and better representatives for the United States and what we stand for.”

Then the president, joined by first lady Michelle Obama, who led the U.S. delegation to the 2012 London Games, and Vice President Joe Biden, shook hands with as many athletes as he could for 40 minutes, flouting his schedule in the process, while Mrs. Obama stayed until the last athlete was hugged.

Team USA won 104 medals at the 2012 Olympics, the first in which American women outnumbered men, and 98 medals in the Paralympic Games. For several female medal winners, Friday’s ceremonies offered a chance to thank Mrs. Obama for her advocacy of fitness through her Let’s Move campaign, projected to reach 1.7 million youngsters by year’s end.

“She has planted a seed that will grow way past her lifetime,” said Brigetta Barrett, 21, a silver medalist in the high jump.

Sanya Richards-Ross, 27, a three-time Olympian who won gold in the 400 meters and 4x400m relay in London, asked the first lady if she could enlist in the Let’s Move initiative.

“She just embodies for me what it means to be a woman that supports her husband and is a role model,” Richards-Ross said.

Fitness was a platform everyone supported on this sun-drenched morning in the midst of a rancorous election season.

The president told the athletes the thrill and admiration he felt watching them compete via DVR at the end of a long work day invariably inspired him the next morning to run a little faster on the treadmill…

Read more: Liz Clarke, Washington Post


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