Michelle Obama had some inspirational words for U.S. Olympians on Friday (July 27) ahead of
the opening of the London games.
“I’m so inspired by you and am in awe of what you all have achieved … Try to have fun; try to breathe a little,” she says.
The first lady held court on the lawn of stately Winfield House, transforming the London landmark into an enormous playground from which she preached the message of her campaign for healthier living. Currently home to the U.S. Ambassador, Winfield House is a mansion set on 12 acres of grounds in Regent’s Park and the second-largest private garden in London behind only Buckingham Palace.
“You know, you are not born an Olympian,” Obama says, addressing the crowd alongside current and former athletes including Brandi Chastain, Grant Hill, Carl Lewis, Shawn Johnson, Teresa Edwards, Dikembe Mutombo and Dana Torres. “Many of them started out just like you. When they fell short or got tired and frustrated, they didn’t give up. It’s hard work … you keep pushing and you never give up.”
According to USA Today, the first lady says that this year’s games are her first trip to the Olympics. Leading a U.S. delegation to the opening ceremonies, the first lady says that she’ll be a spectator in London for the next two days, attending sporting events across the city to cheer on U.S. athletes. She adds that she had brought greetings from a nation “that will be rooting for you every day.”
The first lady took the stage with the University of Florida Marching Band playing her intro music, hugging and high-fiving many of the athletes. The crowd was largely populated by children, many of them members of U.S. military families, with whom Obama spent time playing tennis, field hockey and other games with after her speech.
Perhaps the most powerful moment in the first lady’s remarks occurred when she spoke about how the Olympians were a “powerful” inspiration for her family.
“My father contracted MS in the prime of his life and in a matter of several years, he went from a man who was once a thriving competitor — he was a boxer, a swimmer throughout high school — and then he was stripped of all of his hopes, so he thought, as an athlete,” she explains. “[He] wasn’t able to walk without the assistance of crutches, but he retained his love of sports, truly. And the Olympics was a special time for him to watch amazing athletes of all abilities compete on the world stage.”
While appearing on NBC’s Today Show, the first lady says she had called her husband back in Washington to tell him that she’d be watching tennis, swimming and basketball in person over the next few days.
“He is so jealous of me right now,” she said of the president.