DALLAS, - US First Lady Michelle Obama is teaming up with the US Olympic Committee to introduce more than 1.7 million children to an array of sports as part of her "Let's Move!" youth fitness campaign.
Obama, who will lead the US delegation to the London Olympics in July, was flanked by dozens of Olympians and Olympic hopefuls as she spoke for about 10 minutes at the USOC's pre-London Olympic Summit on Monday.
She and USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun announced an initiative in which the USOC and several of the national governing bodies under its umbrella will introduce children across the country to their sports. "I am beyond proud to be leading the US delegation to the opening ceremonies in London this summer," Obama said. "And I want you to know that I'll be doing so both as a First Lady honored to be representing my country and as a lifelong Olympic fan."
Obama recalled being "awed and inspired" by Olympic competitors that she watched the Games on television as a youngster. But it was 12-time Olympic swimming medallist Natalie Coughlin who was briefly tongue-tied as she introduced the First Lady. After confessing to her nerves, Coughlin was reassured by Obama, who told her "You have a lot of medals -- you don't need to shake."
Athletics, swimming, tennis, cycling, field hockey, basketball, soccer and gymnastics are among the federations that have pledged to provide beginner access and instruction through a variety of youth programs. Obama noted that for many of the participants it will be a first opportunity to try the sports in question.
"That is so important because sometimes all it takes is that first lesson or that first clinic or that first class to get a child excited by that sport," she said. Obama is scheduled to travel to England for opening ceremonies of the London Olympics, which begin on July 27.
It has been traditional during recent US presidencies for first ladies to lead the presidential delegation to the Olympics. Former first lady Laura Bush traveled to the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, and Hillary Clinton went to the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, while her husband Bill was president.