WASHINGTON - President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden spoke with U.S. Olympic athletes in a live-streamed virtual reception Saturday.
"You restored the soul of America in so many ways, you really, really did," he told Team USA. "That’s not hyperbole. That’s a fact."
The president also extended an invitation for the athletes to visit him at the White House in the fall.
He also praised the members beyond their skills.
"It wasn’t just, for a lot of you, it wasn’t just your athletic ability," he said. " It was your moral courage, the courage you showed."
The president also pointed out swimmer Katie Ledecky and gymnast Simone Biles, who both took home medals. Biles sat out of a few events citing her mental health.
"The courage you had to get back up on that beam at the very end and you still win the bronze. You showed everything about who we are as a people," Biden said of Biles.
"These are the things that people look at around the world more than anything that I do as your president or other people do in public life. They get the impression of who we are as Americans, who we are, and you handled yourself with such grace and such decency. Just, you made me so damn proud," the president added.
Biden’s wife also chimed in to congratulate the athletes.
"And you made us proud and I want to thank you so much," she said. "And it was just great — I couldn’t talk to a lot of you but at least I could wave from the sidelines and represent our country. So thank you for the opportunity for allowing me to do be there to represent you."
The U.S. led the medal count with 113. America passed China for the most gold medals on the final day of competition. China finished with 38 while Team USA tallied 39. The Americans also won 41 silvers and 33 bronzes.
The U.S. men’s basketball team won its fourth consecutive gold medal in the sport after beating France 87 to 82. Kevin Durant sealed the win with two free throws with 8.8 seconds left, making the outcome academic. The lead was five, France’s final possession was irrelevant, and it was over.
"Every championship is special, and the group you’re with is special, but I can be honest and say this is the most responsibility I’ve ever felt," said U.S. coach Gregg Popovich, who adds this gold to five NBA titles he’s won as coach in San Antonio. "You’re playing for so many people that are watching, and for a country, and other countries involved. The responsibility was awesome. I felt it every day for several years now. I’m feeling pretty light now and looking forward to getting back to the hotel."
The cauldron will be snuffed Sunday on the exhausting, enlightening, sometimes enraging 2020 Tokyo Olympics — held, actually, in 2021.
This story was reported from Los Angeles.