Biden welcomes Team USA to White House
President Biden welcomed hundreds of Olympic and Paralympic athletes to the White House on Wednesday to celebrate their representing the U.S. in the last two games held during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“You all have such incredible character,” Biden said, flanked by 600 Olympians and Paralympians. “You look at how you handle victory and defeat — it’s just astounding, astounding.”
Team USA members from the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games and the Beijing 2022 Winter Games lined bleachers on the White House South Lawn for the event.
“You’ve been through so damn, darn much,” Biden said to applause and yelling from the Olympians.
Biden said that through sports “like few things, you helped us unite the nation,” adding that there is a common pride in seeing athletes compete in the letters USA.
“In you, I see who we are as a nation,” Biden said. “We believe in America, anything is possible, and you are the explanation of what we mean.”
The group of Olympians included 18 veterans who were at the White House on Wednesday.
Olympic bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor, who became the most decorated Black athlete in Winter Olympic history at the Beijing 2022 Games, was introduced to the podium by the president.
“Elana, the podium is yours. You earned it,” he said.
“We’ve been through a lot. A pandemic, a postponement, a war. But this team is resilient,” Taylor said.
“I hope we made this country proud,” she added. And Biden responded, “You did!”
Taylor welcomed up teammates to present shirts and sneakers to the president, first lady Jill Biden, Vice President Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff.
Teammates included speedskater Brittany Bowe, curler John Shuster, javelin thrower Kara Winger, Paralympic triathlete Melissa Stockwell, Paralympic downhill skiers Danelle Umstead and Tyler Carter, wheelchair rugby player Chuck Aoki, and wheelchair basketball player Matt Scott.
The group took a photograph with their new gear, all of Team USA took a photograph with the president, and then athletes immediately swarmed to greet him. Athletes took selfies with the Bidens, Harris and Emhoff, and the four of them spent several minutes chatting with the group and shaking hands.
The first lady walked down a line, shaking hands with athletes in the front row, and greeted some Paralympic athletes before leaving. The president spoke in front of a section of the bleachers for a few minutes, with about a dozen Olympics in earshot of him.
More athletes lined up to take photographs with the president, and when he turned around to greet the Paralympic athletes in front of the bleachers, a trail of Olympians followed him to get more photographs.
The first lady, wearing a Team USA jacket, kicked off the event. She talked about her time in Tokyo for the Summer Games, adding that Emhoff led the U.S. delegation to the Paralympics in Tokyo.
“We, we’re all Team USA!” she said. “That’s the power of what all of you do. You don’t just play a game, run a race, hit a target, or win a competition. … You show us the heights of our human potential.”
She also highlighted the challenges of competing during the COVID-19 pandemic, in which the stands were mostly empty and families of athletes were not allowed to attend.
“I know that these games may not have been exactly what you had imagine,” she said. “But you are all champions just the same.”
Harris and Emhoff both wore masks throughout the ceremony. Harris had just returned to work in person on Tuesday after testing negative for COVID-19 following her positive test last week.
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