TORONTO (AP) — U.S. first lady Melania Trump on Saturday encouraged the American team participating in an Olympic-style competition for wounded service members and veterans to take their “fighting spirit” and “bring home the gold.”
Mrs. Trump also applauded the team members for their contributions, calling them “our heroes.”
“On behalf of my husband and our entire country, I want to thank you and your families for all you have sacrificed to keep us safe,” she said at a reception at a downtown Toronto hotel for the nearly 100 U.S. athletes competing in the Invictus Games, a creation of Britain’s Prince Harry.
“I also want to wish you good luck, though I know you won’t need it in these games,” Mrs. Trump said. “Take that fighting spirit that I know you have and bring home the gold.”
During the opening ceremonies Saturday night, Mrs. Trump joined Prince Harry in a VIP box and stood and applauded when Team USA was introduced. She also stood for Canada’s team.
Earlier, the first lady shook hands with some of the athletes and posed for photos before she departed for a reunion with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose country is hosting the games; his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau; and two of the couple’s three children. Mrs. Trump had seen Trudeau this week in New York during the U.N. General Assembly.
Her first piece of business after arriving earlier Saturday was to visit with Prince Harry.
Mrs. Trump was heard telling the prince, whom she was meeting for the first time, that she had just arrived on a flight from Washington. President Donald Trump was spending the weekend at his golf club in central New Jersey.
“Nice to meet you,” Harry said as they were introduced and shook hands. They stood together and smiled for the British and American news media before sitting in adjoining club chairs placed in front of their countries’ respective flags.
Harry remarked on how busy the first lady has been. She was in New York this week for Trump’s address at the U.N., delivered an address of her own at a U.N. luncheon, and on Friday joined children to plant, harvest and wash vegetables grown in a garden on the White House lawn.
“Yes, very busy,” she said, before offering a compliment in return. “You’re doing a fantastic job,” she said.
Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for Mrs. Trump, said the first lady and Prince Harry chatted about the competition during their approximately 20-minute meeting and joshed about which country would take home the most medals. She also invited him to the White House the next time he visits Washington.
Mrs. Trump led a U.S. delegation to the third annual games that included Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, professional golfer Nancy Lopez and entertainer Wayne Newton, a celebrity spokesman for a memorial to honor American Indian and Alaska Native veterans.
Grisham said the first lady feels strongly that service members, veterans and their families should be honored daily and that her decision to lead the delegation reflected her “utmost respect” for their hard work, courage and sacrifices.
Mrs. Trump also has “great admiration” for how the games help empower those who have been injured in service.
Prince Harry, a military veteran who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan, established the Invictus Games in 2014 for sick and wounded service members and veterans from around the globe. More than 550 people from 17 countries are expected to compete in various sports, ranging from cycling to wheelchair tennis to sitting volleyball, during the weeklong competition.
London was the setting for the inaugural event in 2015, followed by Orlando, Florida, last year.
Mrs. Trump’s participation continues White House involvement with the games, which began during President Barack Obama’s tenure.
Jill Biden, wife of then-Vice President Joe Biden, led the U.S. delegation to London as part of a military initiative undertaken with then-first lady Michelle Obama. Mrs. Obama helped open last year’s competition in Florida.
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