Lawmakers and aides gave new meaning to the phrase “going for the gold” on Wednesday afternoon, teaming up with Olympic and Paralympic athletes at a free-throw contest on Capitol Hill sponsored by the U.S. Olympic Committee and its supporters in Congress.
Just in time for the beginning of “March Madness”—the 2012 NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments—a host of members and staffers took to a makeshift court in the Rayburn House Office Building and fired up free throws.
(PICTURES: Going to the Charity Stripe)
They were joined by 2008 Olympics gymnast Shawn Johnson, 2010 Olympic champion figure skater Evan Lysacek, and many other Olympic and Paralympic participants. The event was aimed at bolstering support for the USOC and its programs, which include the Paralympics for disabled athletes.
“Everybody aspires to what you all have accomplished, you are great diplomats, you are great athletes, and you are great to have as part of our country.” Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., told the athletes who attended. “We are all here because this is a great occasion to really highlight what you do and how you spread good will around the world, and we want to continue that.”
Carlos Leon, a disabled Marine veteran who participates in track and field events, said the Paralympics have been a form of rehabilitation for him.
“In my personal experience, I believe it saved my life,” he said. “I was a young Marine, broke my neck when I was 20 years old, and didn’t know if I was going to move on from that point in my life. I came across a program with the U.S. Paralympic Committee partnered with the Veterans' Affairs [Department], and they taught me how to throw shot put, and where am I today? I am speaking in front of you as a Paralympic athlete.”
After a sweat-dripping competition, winners were awarded gold, silver, and bronze medals. A team from the office of Rep. John Carney, D-Del., took the gold.
The silver medal went to a team from the office of Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and bronze medals went to three teams tied for third: the offices of Reps. Joe Baca, D-Calif.; Dave Reichert, R-Wash.; and Jim Langevin, D-R.I.
This article appears in the March 17, 2011, edition of NJ Daily.