WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — President Joe Biden praised U.S. Olympians for navigating the difficulties of a coronavirus-tarnished games with “moral courage” that made Americans’ “hearts swell” with pride.
Biden, along with first lady Jill Biden, spoke with Team USA in a Zoom call Saturday evening from their home near Wilmington, Delaware. The couple extended an invitation to the athletes to visit the White House in the fall to celebrate their accomplishments.
The Bidens heaped praise on the athletes for their accomplishments in their respective sports but also honed in on remarkable moments in the games when they said the athletes set an example for their fellow Americans.
“You handled yourself with such grace and such decency,” the president told the athletes. “You made me so damn proud.”
Biden told gymnast Simone Biles that her decision to withdraw from events at the Tokyo Games to focus on her mental health set an important example for others. She later came back to win a bronze in the balance beam final.
“You had the courage to say, ‘I need some help,’” Biden said. “And you gave an example to everybody. And guess what, by the way, you got back up on that damned beam!”
Biden also said that he was heartened by how runner Isaiah Jewett carried himself after he and Botswanan Nijel Amos became tangled during a semifinal heat of the 800 meters and both fell to the track.
Jewett and Amos helped each other to their feet, put their arms around each other, and finished together 54 seconds after the winner. Biden said the moment of sportsmanship had “profound impact around the world.”
“America when it leads the world leads not by the example of our power but by the power of our example,” Biden said. “That’s the God’s truth. And you are an epitome of that, and we thank you for it.”