Olympic Equestrians Congratulated by President Bush

The Equestrian Olympic athletes that represented the United States in Athens this year had the extraordinary opportunity to meet the President and First Lady at the White House. Following a tradition started with President Gerald Ford, President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush greeted the athletes in style on Monday (Oct. 18). The event was sponsored by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) on behalf of all of the members of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Teams.

Representatives of the U.S. Equestrian teams got a front row seat on the balcony during the ceremony at the South Portico of the White House. Team members present included eventing team members Kim Severson, Amy Tryon, Darren Chiacchia, and John Williams, dressage team member Debbie McDonald, and Paralympic Dressage team member Keith Newerla. United States Equestrian Federation team leaders Jim Wolf, Sally Ike, Marilyn Adams, and Mary Lutz were also in attendance.

The President gave a short speech welcoming all of the athletes and family members as well as Olympic Chef de Mission Herman Frazier and Paralympic Chef de Mission Jeanne Piccariello of the USOC. He mentioned some of the notable statistics from the Games and thanked all of the athletes for the lasting memories that were created. 

"With millions watching, you showed the best values of America," President Bush said. "You made us all proud and I want to thank you for being such fine ambassadors of our nation to the world."

Team jackets were presented to President and Mrs. Bush and following the ceremony, the athletes worked their way down to the South Lawn. Paralympic equestrian Keith Newerla echoed the sentiments of all of the athletes.     

"I think it is a great opportunity and I am honored to be here," Newerla said. "It's great to be home and to be recognized by the President and First Lady on behalf of America. I would not have missed it for the world."

The eventing athletes received their long-awaited bronze medals earlier in the day and were wearing them during the ceremony. Double medalist Kim Severson was grateful for the chance to share the experience with her teammates.     

"It's very fortunate to be here with the team since we did not have the opportunity in Athens," Severson said. "It's amazing."

Eventer Amy Tryon agreed. "These are the greatest teammates ever." 

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