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Rockwall gold medal-winning athlete invited to meet Pres. Obama, tour DC

By J.J. Smith. A young Rockwall man was just invited to meet Pres. Obama and his wife and enjoy a tour of Washington D.C. in April as a member of the U.S. Winter Olympics/Paralympics teams which participated in the 2010 Vancouver Canada Games earlier this year.

Taylor Lipsett (seated first to the right of Michelle Obama with beard) was one of the leading scorers on the gold medal-winning U.S. sled-hockey team in the Paralympics Games for athletes with physical disabilities which followed the Winter Olympics.

The 2009 SMU graduate said he was able to meet many other governmental leaders and Olympic athletes during the tour. Among them were Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Defense Secretary and former Texas A&M president Robert Gates,  plus Winter Olympics champions Shaun White, Apollo Ohno, Shanie Davis and Dave Backes.

“The White House visit was great!” said Lipsett, who just moved to Rockwall last November with his wife, Kathleen, from Mesquite, where he was raised.

“It was a great honor meeting President Obama and the First Lady! No matter what you political views might be, being in the company and shaking hands with one of the most powerful people on the earth is quite an experience!”

“Pres. Obama had very kind words to say to the team, and said that we were very courageous athletes, for not only achieving what we did by winning the gold medal, but also for overcoming the daily obstacles that people with disabilities face.”

“He expressed that ‘we are an inspiration to all Americans and provide great role models for children and especially those wounded warriors coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan!”

Lipsett said the First Lady was also very kind and hugged every athlete.

“While she did not have many words to say since the President was doing most of the speaking during their five-minute visit with the team, she went around and hugged every single athlete and congratulated us.”

After leaving the White House, he said they went on a tour of the Pentagon, met Secretary Gates and visited the memorial for those lost in the 9/11 attack.

The day before they went to the Bethesda Naval Hospital and visited with wounded soldiers home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The D.C. trip all in all was a great experience! We got to visit with wounded warriors and provide them with some home to living life with a disability.”

He said they concluded their trip by attending a reception dinner at the Supreme Court, where there were various Senators and Congressmen whom they were able to meet and speak with.

“To conclude the visit to D.C., we attended a reception at the Supreme Court, where many Congressman and other political leaders were present and mingled about with all the athletes.”

There were Olympians and Paralympians all together during the whole week, he added.

“I got to meet Olympic Champions such as Apollo Ohno, Shanie Davis, Shaun White and Dave Backes, a member of the U.S. Men’s Hockey Team and St. Louis Blues, plus many members of the Women’s Olympic Hockey team.”

“Another cool experience was meeting Shaun White, the Olympic Snow Board Half Pipe Gold Medalist. He was very nice and took the time to snap pictures with many athletes.”

“Overall it was a great week and an unforgettable experience,” he said.

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