Sept. 19, 2012
CULLOWHEE, N.C. - Former Western Carolina sprinter Manteo Mitchell and the rest of the 2012 United States Olympic athletes visited Washington D.C., and the White House last Friday afternoon where they were greeted by President Barack Obama and enjoyed an event sponsored by Olympic sponsors for the athletes and congressional leaders.
Before traveling to Andrews Air Force Base to be present in a more solemn occasion with the remains of those killed in Libya arriving back to U.S. soil, Obama stayed past the allotted time to shake as many of the hands of the Olympians and Paralympians as possible.
Close to 400 athletes spent time on the South Lawn together with President Obama, Mrs. Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. The athletes took photos with the group and listened as Obama spoke of his some of his favorite highlights from this year's games.
President Obama singled out the WCU alum, saying that Mitchell's story was "one of my favorite stories of the whole Olympics."
"He talked about the Olympians being an inspiration, and when he said that my story was the most inspiring, it caught me off guard," recalled Mitchell.
"The White House sent me the script because I didn't believe that he actually said it, but there it was. I thought it was cool. I inspired him, and he's the President of the United States of America. It humbled me to know that he was inspired by our team and me."
Mitchell finished the first leg of the 4x400 preliminary heat with a broken bone in his leg. The 4x400 relay team took the silver medal, making Mitchell the first former Catamount student-athlete to receive an Olympic medal.
"Michelle [Obama] came up to me, took me by the hand up to him [Mr. Obama] to take what she called a family picture," continued Mitchell.
"She said that you're just like the son that I've always wanted. That completely blew my mind, but he said that he was proud of me. He apologized for saying my name wrong, but I didn't care. He said my name and that's all that mattered. It was just an honor to be there, but being mentioned by the President of the United States, that was over the top."