Obama, Biden and Michelle Welcome Olympians to the White House

President Barack Obama attempts his best split with the gold medal 2016 US Olympic Women's Gymnastics Team with First Lady Michelle Obama watching in the Map Room, prior to an event to welcome the 2016 US Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House to honor their participation and success in the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sept. 29, 2016

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Washington, DC – President Barack Obama on Thursday (Sept 29) was joined by Vice President Joe Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama in welcoming several hundred members of the 2016 US Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House

As the trio entered the East Room at 12:50pm, roughly 45 minutes behind schedule, to a raucous welcome from the waiting members teams, President Obama said, “Hello everybody! Welcome to the White House!”

Speaking from behind a podium at the south end of the room, flanked by the vice president on his left and First Lady on his right, the president said he had contemplated doing a gymnastics floor routine on his way into the room, prompting the first lady to joke, “and you can’t touch your toes.”

In his remarks, the president celebrated the US teams’ achievements, singling out swimmers Katie Ledecky and Michael Phelps and track star Allyson Felix. He also highlighted the nation’s diversity, saying, ”America’s greatness doesn’t only come from high scores and fast times.” He continued that the US gathers “talent from every corner of the globe.”

“We’ve become something more than sum of our parts,” he said, adding, “We’ve become Americans together. And there’s something special about that — all races, all faiths, all traditions, all orientations, all marching together under that same proud flag. Not bound by a creed or a color, but by our devotion to an enduring set of ideals: That we’re all created equal, that we can think and worship and love as we please, and that we can pursue our own version of happiness.”

On a lighter note, Obama said that the members of the team came in different shapes and sizes but were “all very good looking” and exuded health. At that, the first lady interrupted with a cry of “fruits and vegetables,” accompanied with laughter and applause from the audience.

The president also noted that Olympians Tommy Smith and John Carlos, famous for their raised-fist protests at the 1968 games in Mexico City, were in attendance. “Their powerful silent protest in the ’68 games was controversial, but it woke folks up,” the president said.

A team representative presented the president with a gift of a surfboard signed by the Olympians and Paralympians. As the trio exited the room, there were loud chants of “USA – USA – USA.”

The first several rows in front of the President were occupied by wheelchair paralympians. All of the athletes wore matching red track jackets with U-S-A in a vertical row on their backs, black tights and neon yellow Nike shoes. As the President spoke, dozens of smartphones, held aloft by the young men and women, captured his remarks.

Later, five Olympians appeared on the north portico for a brief and unremarkable Q&A. In response to a question about the possibility of the Olympics returning to Los Angeles, Allyson Felix, the track star, said: “It would be amazing to get the games back in LA.”

For the statistical minded, Team USA topped the medal chart in every category for only the seventh time in Olympic history and the first since 1948, leading all nations with 121 medals, including 46 golds, 37 silvers and 38 bronzes. At the Rio 2016 Olympic Games for 17 days of competition, more than 10,900 athletes representing 206 nations competed. The Rio Games also marked the first Olympics to be held in South America.

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