Hughes Olympics blog: London with the First Lady
Olympic gold medalist shares her adventures from the 2012 Olympic Summer Games
|Sarah Hughes smiles in London with First Lady Michelle Obama. (courtesy of Sarah Hughes)|
Friday, July 27
Highlight of today has to be meeting David Beckham. It wasn't just meeting him; it was more of the surprise of seeing him from afar and then the excitement of watching him make the journey from inside the stately residence of U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom Louis B. Susman to the backyard podium I was on.
The podium was a who's who of American Olympic legends gathered in the spacious back lawn of Winfield House, ambassador Susman's home, right in Regent's Park: gymnasts Nadia Comaneci, Bart Conner, Shawn Johnson, Nastia Liukin and Dominique Dawes; swimming champions Summer Sanders and Dara Torres -- who also brought her 6-year-old, Tessa, onstage; soccer player Brandi Chastain -- the one who inspired millions of young girls when she scored the game-winning penalty shot in the 1999 World Cup, and who is the one to thank for taking the pictures on stage; Carl Lewis; basketball greats Grant Hill and 7-foot-2 Dikembe Mutombo; Paralympian Gabriel Diaz de Leon; and speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno, who represented the winter sports alongside me and Emily.
The Let's Move! event, hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama and Nickelodeon, turned ambassador Susman's backyard into a giant playground where over 1,000 British and American children played tennis, tug-of-war, basketball and soccer, among other sports.
Emily and I took the Underground train system to get to Regent's Park and arrived to the sounds of Grammy Award winner Mark Ronson and The Wanted, who played three songs. As the Olympians chatted onstage and caught up with each other, we would occasionally glance to our left to check on the First Lady's status. She was scheduled to come down a pathway straight from the ambassador's house to make her way to the podium in front of us. Well, imagine our surprise when none other than David Beckham unexpectedly takes the route. Of course, a pandemonium of anticipation and bewilderment erupted in the crowd and onstage. Was it really him? Oh yes, we all quickly agreed and composed ourselves. It really was. Now we had to focus on formulating the best way to meet him. Even though we were only a few feet away, over a thousand people and several media crews were watching us. After all, we were on a stage.
Brandi Chastain encouraged me to go ask him for a picture, but the Chef de Mission for the U.S. Team -- the most decorated Olympic basketball player in the world -- Teresa Edwards, quickly dismissed the idea. "No pictures; we don't want to start this." As I took a step back, Beckham posed with Dara Torres' 6-year-old daughter for an adorable photo, and that broke the last bit of cool any of us on stage were trying to keep. Beckham easily charmed us all and happily took photos with anyone who wanted one.
After collecting ourselves and lining back up, First Lady Michelle Obama jogged through the pathway and made her way to the stage as the University of Florida marching band, who made the journey to London, played.
The First Lady exuded a lot of charisma and spawned an infectious warm energy as she high-fived us before taking the podium to speak.
"We are so incredibly proud of you, and anytime I get the chance to show you guys love, I do it," Obama told the kids, who were mostly from U.S. military families that are stationed in the United Kingdom. "You sacrifice so much for this country, and we are so very proud of you."
She also spoke to the kids about the role of persistence and hard work in achieving your dreams. She turned to us as she shared the stories of Garbiel Diaz de Leon and Apolo Anton Ohno to convey that message. As she shared with the kids how Apolo Anton Ohno -- one of the most decorated Olympic speed skaters -- came in last place the first time he tried to make the Olympic team, Tessa (Dara's little girl), took a step in front of her mom to get a better look at Apolo and give him the once over. She made a face that only a 6-year-old can, one that showed she was most definitely not impressed with that result.
Obama went on to say that Ohno didn't give up. He went back home, worked harder and didn't only make the next Olympic team, but won gold medals in two subsequent Games. Nonetheless, it was clear Torres' daughter Tessa was still not impressed with that last-place finish. Tessa's personality added to the spirit of the event, bridging the gap between the Olympic legends and kids participating.
Obama finished by talking about the importance of staying active and eating healthy in order to live the best live possible.
"You are important," she emphasized to the kids, making sure that if they remembered only one thing she said, that should be it.
As she came and hugged me and Emily -- and I mean, we were having a good time: being in the company of sporting superstars, at the Ambassador's massive abode in London, hanging with the First Lady and David Beckham -- she had a question. "Did you guys always get along?" And honestly, we always have. Always. Emily is the best sister anyone could ever ask for and I am lucky to have her as mine. It's not even going out on a limb to speak for my four other siblings and say they would say the same exact thing.
Wearing white pants, a navy and white pinstriped tailor blazer with a blue sporting shirt underneath and fashionable silver perforated sneakers, Michelle hopped, skipped and jumped her way to the varied athletic stations to take part in the different sports.
Following tug-of-war and chatting with the kids, Emily went to the basketball station to play some ball, soon finding herself among elite basketball company: Grant Hill, Dikembe Mutombo and Michelle Obama. Emily tells me she tried to slink off to the sidelines -- how well she executed that move, I'm not sure. But the main point of the day was in staying active, never giving up and making good choices -- something everyone in attendance can agree that we had a whole lot of fun doing today.
Emily and I watched the Opening Ceremony with NBC producer Willie Ebersol (the most patriotically fashionable person I've seen so far -- David Beckham even complimented his shorts this morning), Apolo Anton Ohno, Olympic speed skater Joey Cheek, Olympic champion swimmer Donna de Varona and many new friends.
Having a great time in London. Be sure to check back for more updates. Cheerio!