By Meghashyam Mali - 08/04/12 10:00 AM EDT
President Obama stepped away from election-year battles to praise America's athletes who are competing in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, telling them "your country could not be prouder of you."
In his weekly address, Obama said the competitors showed the nation that "for all our differences, we’re Americans first" and that their efforts had "brought us all together this week."
The president mentioned first lady Michelle Obama's visit to the United Kingdom last week to attend the Opening Ceremonies and meet with the American team.
"I watched the wonderful young women of our gymnastics team recapture the team gold for America, and I was filled with pride watching Gabby Douglas win the all-around gold with incredible poise and grace. I watched our swimmers win a haul of medals, and Michael Phelps become the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time," he said.
Phelps on Friday won his 17th gold medal in his last individual Olympic event, besting the competition in the men's 100 -meter butterfly. Earlier in the week, Obama had tweeted his congratulations at the champion swimmer.
"It’s no surprise America is vying for the top of the medal count," Obama added in the Saturday address. "But it’s not the medal count alone that inspires us – most of our athletes won’t claim a medal at all. It’s the character of the men and women who compete for those medals. It’s their hard work and sacrifice – the countless hours in the gym, in the pool, on the track. It’s their dogged perseverance and unyielding determination, through disappointment and triumph alike.
"It’s that unconquerable spirit – that American spirit – that says even though we may have very different stories to tell; even though we may not look alike or talk alike or be dealt the same hand in life – if we work hard, we can achieve our dreams. We can make it if we try," he said.
Obama closed his address, thanking the nation's athletes for "presenting the best of America to the rest of the world."
"Go get ‘em this week, Team USA. We can’t wait to welcome you home," said Obama.
Presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney also attended the London games. Romney, who helped oversee the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics organizing effort, and his wife Ann have a horse, Rafalca, which participated in dressage, one of the equestrian events.
Democrats and the liberal group MoveOn.org have both used Rafalca to hit the Romneys on their personal wealth and White House press secretary Jay Carney last week told reporters that the president might catch the horse event on television.