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Olympics/Paralympics

Paralympic champions Wagner, Taylor honored at "A Capitol Fourth"

July 6, 2012 10:40 AM
Paralympic gold medalists David Wagner and Nick Taylor (center) were part of a contingent of athletes honored at "A Capitol Fourth."
For Wagner (left) and Taylor, the true fireworks begin on Sept. 1 when they take to the courts at the 2012 London Paralympic Games.
A pair of world-class Americans: Speed skating icon Apolo Anton Ohno (left) and Wagner.
By Jeremiah Yolkut, special to USTA.com

WASHINGTON D.C. -- There is nothing quite like spending July 4th in our nation’s capital, but doing so as athletes on their way to the Paralympic Games is a totally different story. 
 
U.S. Paralympic gold medalists David Wagner and Nick Taylor did just that, representing the USTA and tennis as part of an Olympic delegation being honored during the "A Capitol Fourth" celebration in Washington, D.C. Wagner and Taylor were the only Paralympians in the Olympic delegation—and also two of the very few who arrived as two-time defending gold medalists, having won the doubles together in 2004 and 2008.
 
"To be honored in this way is pretty special. Everything about this event is top notch and it gives us as athletes another reason to leave our best on the court," commented Taylor.
 
Their journey started with a full run-through on Tuesday evening in front of the Capitol building, where the entire show was staged and put on from start to finish in the exact form of the July 4th show to be held the following day. This included thousands of fans and viewers watching from the National Mall and cheering on the athletes. 
 
"It’s impressive how organized they are to put on the entire show a day before and then put it on again the next day," Taylor said.
 
The morning of the 4th started with a team breakfast followed by a special behind-the-scenes tour of the Capitol for the Olympians and their guests. The day progressed with lunch and then another rehearsal back at the Capitol, which included mingling with featured guests Tom Bergeron, Matthew Broderick, Kool & the Gang, and Apolo Anton Ohno, as well as meeting senators from several states across the union. Following the last run-through, Wagner and Taylor were shuttled back to the hotel to prepare for the big evening.
 
About an hour before the "A Capitol Fourth" show began, the talent arrived in Peace Circle in front of the Capitol for the big performance. After a few cosmetic adjustments, the director of the show stopped by to remind Wagner and Taylor to have fun, smile and enjoy the special occasion. From there the athletes were shuttled to their seats to enjoy some of the other performers, including "American Idol" winner Phillip Phillips, "The Voice" winner Javier Colon and country music star Josh Turner. 
 
When it was time for Team USA to take the stage, Wagner and Taylor were front and center. After the orchestra played John’s Williams’s "Olympic Fanfare," the audience at home and on hand got to meet each athlete as the camera went one-by-one introducing them to the crowd. Wagner and Taylor were featured last, amid cheers from the crowd and chants of "good luck." 
 
"It is meaningful to know that so many people are behind us," Wagner said. "Besides for the individual drive we have, we also want to do it for all of them."
 
The show was capped off with a fireworks display overlooking the National Mall and the Lincoln Memorial. Afterward, Congress hosted all of the athletes in the Capitol Building for a meet-and-greet with "Wounded Warriors," politicians and some of the performers from the day’s events—a fitting sendoff as Wagner and Taylor prepare to go for a third consecutive gold medal in early September. 
 

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