|Apr 03||Sarah Hughes Exclusive: Team USA Reunion At Best Of U.S.|
After qualifying for the Olympic or Paralympic Games and then representing their country on “the world’s biggest stage,” American athletes get one more highlight: the chance to relive all their great memories and reconnect with their friends, new and old, a few weeks later in Washington, D.C. as Team USA makes its traditional visit to the White House to meet the president. I remember my D.C. visit in 2002. I was excited to see my Olympic friends, and of course, Mr. President, but having one last hurrah without any of the Olympic pressure and the chance to make one last memory with my Olympic teammates was great fun. There was a reception the night before and an array of celebrities came, including Heidi Klum, Brian Boitano, Josh Groban and Renee Fleming. As you can imagine, many of the guys wanted a picture with Heidi Klum…she was dressed to the nines and simply stunning.
While Heidi Klum did not make an appearance in Washington, D.C. last night, the United States Olympic Committee certainly stepped up its game and hosted the inaugural Best of U.S. Awards Show. The Willie Geist-hosted show gave many of Team USA’s greatest athletes the chance to dress up and walk the red carpet — some of whom accessorized with some added Sochi bling…yes, by that I mean their medals — while being honored for representing the U.S. in such a spectacular fashion in Sochi.
Olympic bronze medalist pairs skater, Marissa Castelli, just back from competing in the world championships in Japan showed no sign of the 13-hour time difference that might cause some jet lag. Dressed in her favorite Madewell black strapless dress accessorized with a jeweled necklace, she said she was “definitely looking forward to seeing all my friends from the Olympics and cheering them on as they get their awards, and just hanging out with everyone again.”
Marissa and I hadn’t spoken more than a few sentences before a delightful, energetic, bouncy and animated Jason Brown seemed to descend out of nowhere. Such is the atmosphere at these events.
Brown had performed on the “TODAY” show in the morning to promote the Stars on Ice skating show — on which he will tour the country over the next few weeks — then hopped on a plane to D.C. and changed into his first suit “since my bar mitzvah,” he proudly exclaimed as he modeled the dashing threads. As delightful as ever, Brown graciously let everyone who wanted to touch his bronze medal from Sochi hold it, and mentioned that his life has been such a whirlwind these last few weeks that he hasn’t been able to check how many views his Riverdance program has received on YouTube. (It currently has a healthy 4.3 million views.) He spoke of how much fun he’s been having since being named to the Olympic Team and how much wear he’s getting out of his suit: he wore it at a Hollywood movie premiere last week and plans to wear it to a handful of the prom invites he’s gotten. Hint: High school girls, if you’re interested, he said he’s accepted every one he’s received so far, so now is your chance!
Erin Hamlin, the first-ever U.S. Olympic medalist in singles luge, was a vision in blue that appropriately framed her Sochi medal. Hamlin’s blue ribbon matched her royal blue lace dress and blue patent leather pumps.
Mikaela Shiffrin, the youngest Olympic gold medalist in women’s slalom — and the first female American slalom champion since 1972 — shared how her outfit was a family affair. Even though one would imagine, after seeing her in P&G beauty ads as a spokesperson for Pantene and on “Late Show with David Letterman,” that the 18-year-old has a closet full of red carpet-ready looks handy, that is not the case. She went to a store in her home state of Colorado and tried on a lot of different outfits while her phone buzzed nonstop with family and friends requesting “selfies” so they could weigh in on her final pick. Her choice ended up being a chic form-fitting black dress and blazer with black and white shoes, a black and white necklace and earrings and a bag she picked up “in the airport.” Such is the efficiency one acquires during life in the fast lane.
Rico Roman, one of the stars of the gold medal-winning Paralympic sled hockey team, said he was looking forward to the White House visit the following day. “I’ve taken pictures of the outside, but this will be my first time inside.”
The tour is one of the best given. Emily Hughes, 2006 Olympian (and for full disclosure, also my sister), was an intern for then-Senator John Kerry during the summer of 2010. “We got a great tour of the White House in 2006,” she said. “I went again when I was interning, and the tour they give isn’t as in-depth. When I was with the team, we got to see more rooms, and get more information.”
“I am going to call him Mr. President,” Shriffrin said of the preparation she has done in properly addressing the POTUS at the following day’s White House visit as we both hurried into the Warner Theatre as the award show began.
The show airs on NBC Sports Network on April 7 from 7-8 p.m. ET. There are some special guests (including a video from speedskating fanatic Stephan Colbert) but I won’t give everything away.
As Marissa Castelli said, “It’s been great to celebrate the Olympics again.” Hope you enjoy the show as much as I did when you tune in on the 7th!