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Michelle Obama tells US athletes to 'have fun' at Olympics

Last updated on: July 27, 2012 15:52 IST

Michelle Obama tells US athletes to 'have fun' at Olympics

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Michelle Obama formally opened her stint as leader of the US Olympics delegation on Friday morning, attending a breakfast with American Olympians and saying she was "just in awe" of their company.

The US first lady mingled with athletes afterward, posing for photos, shaking hands and sharing hugs with dozens of the Olympians who signed up to attend.

"Try to have fun. Try to breathe a little bit," Obama said.

"But also win, right?"

The first lady has a busy itinerary, including an event later on Friday to promote healthy living with more than 1,000 children expected, then a reception hosted by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, followed by the opening ceremony at Olympic Stadium.

She told the group that some of her fondest memories in sports stemmed from watching the Olympics on television. She also shared the story of her father, who was athletic and contracted multiple sclerosis "in the prime of his life."

"He retained his love of sports, truly," Obama told the athletes.

"And the Olympics was a special time for him to watch amazing athletes of all abilities compete on the world stage. So these games especially affected our little house on the south side of Chicago. Every few years, these games bring pride, excitement and wonder to millions of people around the world. And that must mean so much to all of you."


Image: US first lady Michelle Obama (centre) poses for a photo with members of the women's basketball team after speaking at a breakfast with Team USA in London on Friday
Photographs: Darron Cummings / AP

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'I am so inspired being here'

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The breakfast took place at the University of East London, where the US Olympic Committee has established a full training facility that will host hundreds of athletes during the games. Among the Olympians in attendance was two-time fencing gold medalist Mariel Zagunis, who was chosen by US athletes to carry the nation's flag into the opening ceremony, along with the US women's basketball team and members of the track and field squad.

The US first lady appeared with several past US Olympic and Paralympic standouts, including Brandi Chastain, Gabriel Diaz de Leon, Grant Hill, Summer Sanders and Dominique Dawes, who introduced the first lady before her brief remarks.

"Being here is otherworldly for me," she said.

"I am still so inspired."

On Saturday, Obama is scheduled to meet with Samantha Cameron, the wife of British Prime Minister David Cameron, before watching American athletes on the first full day of Olympic competition. She's scheduled to see more events before departing Sunday.

Other first ladies who have led recent US Olympic delegations include Hillary Clinton at Lillehammer in 1994 and Laura Bush at Turin in 2006.

Image: First lady Michelle Obama hugs women's basketball player Candace Parker after speaking at a breakfast with Team USA in London on Friday
Photographs: Darron Cummings / AP

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