The USA's President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden today hosted a special event at the White House to celebrate the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams from the last Winter and Summer Games.
Invitees included Winter Olympians and Paralympians from this year's Games in Beijing, as well as Team USA's Tokyo 2020 competitors, who were unable to visit the White House earlier due to restrictions related to coronavirus.
The event, which took place on the South Lawn of the White House, was attended by around 600 athletes, as well as dignitaries including Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff.
Jill Biden, whose first overseas trip as first lady was to attend the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021, reflected on her time watching the Olympics in Japan.
"That's the power of what all of you do," she said. "You don't just play a game, run a race, hit a target or win a competition. With every step, jump, roll, kick and twirl you show us the heights of our human potential. You show us how to fail and then get back up, you teach us that hard work and sacrifice and determination can push us beyond what we ever thought was in our reach."
President Biden began by speaking about his own dreams of becoming an athlete while in college and high school, before turning his attention to the Olympians who stood around him: "The Bidens are big sports fans, we love watching the Olympics. When Jill came home from Tokyo all she could do was talk about y'all constantly. And we knew that no matter the results we wanted to honour you here at the White House.
He later added: "Our favourite part of the Olympics was watching your families watch you, learning about who you are. Because we learn about how big and diverse and talented, how great this nation is, just how diverse we are. The pandemic made training and competing especially difficult and draining, but you did it, and we were in awe, not just of your incredible athleticism but your endurance and your state of mind, but most of all your character."
Elana Meyers Taylor hails the perseverance of the Team USA athletes
Elana Meyers Taylor, who won silver in the monobob and bronze in the two-woman bobsleigh at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, also spoke at the event.
"This is a moment that is truly beyond the imagination of many of our dreams, one that many of us thought may never be possible," she said. "As a team, Olympians, Paralympians, summer athletes, winter athletes, we've been through a lot; a pandemic, a postponement, a war. But this team is resilient, we came together and we persevered and we hope we've made this country proud.
The visit of Team USA to the White House follows a virtual event that took place last year when the Bidens celebrated with the Tokyo 2020 Olympians and Paralympians from their home in Delaware.