WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- They're the best of the best. U.S. Olympians and Paralympians did our country proud during the 2016 Rio Games. Now, they’re getting big props from the commander-in-chief.
“This year’s summer Olympians gave us enough milestones and moments to last the next four years," said President Obama at a ceremony at the White House Thursday.
It’s one of several events the athletes are participating in while they’re in Washington. Wednesday night, they walked and wheeled down the red carpet at Georgetown University for the Team USA Awards.
Gold medal swimmer Leah Smith – a student at the University of Virginia -- has never been to the White House.
“When I meet a celebrity, it’s just crazy to me because I realize they’re a real person. I’m just super excited to go to White House and be with my Team USA teammates," said Smith.
“I was thinking about giving [President Obama] a nice, hard punch so he won’t forget me!" joked boxer Claressa Shields of Flint, Michigan.
Shields won gold in 2012 and 2016, but she wasn’t able to attend the White House ceremony last time.
“Hopefully he watches boxing. I know he went to visit Flint. He probably knows of me, probably not. But I’ll speak to him, get a picture, and say hello," she said.
Others are White House veterans. Paige McPherson of Sturgis, South Dakota won the bronze medal in tae kwon do four years ago and met the president then.
“I was star-struck when I first met him. I actually forgot my name!” said McPherson.
Even though she didn’t medal this year, McPherson is excited to be back and share in the moment with her teammates.
“To be here to celebrate not just the medals, but the entire Olympic spirit is truly an honor," she said.