Pope meets swimming worlds athletes

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Pope meets swimming worlds athletes

By ARIEL DAVID
Associated Press Writer

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday met athletes
participating in the swimming world championships in Rome and
urged them to act as role models for fellow youths “in sports
and in life.”

Benedict blessed and shook hands with athletes in the courtyard
of his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo in the hills outside
Rome, and praised their “exciting performance.”

He playfully put on sports hats the athletes gave him and
triumphantly raised a plush green frog – the mascot of the Rome
championships.

Among those handing the gifts to Benedict were fellow German
Paul Biedermann, who beat American Michael Phelps in the
200-meter freestyle on Tuesday, and Italy’s double gold
medallist Federica Pellegrini. The two also gave Benedict an
Italy and a Germany jersey, and Biedermann’s was autographed by
his teammates.

Though Phelps was invited, he skipped the audience to rest
before his final individual race of the world championships
later Saturday.

Benedict blessed the crowd of about 100 athletes, organizers and
volunteers using his right hand, encased in a cast since he fell
and broke his wrist two weeks ago while vacationing in the
Italian Alps.

In a speech, he praised the athletes for choosing to train hard
and make sacrifices to succeed in sports.

“With your competitions you offer to the world an exciting
performance of discipline and humanity, artistic beauty and
tenacious will,” Benedict said. “You, dear athletes, are models
for your fellow youths and your example can be decisive in
positively building their future. Therefore, be champions in
sports and in life!”

Benedict also worked an apt sports pun into his speech, telling
the athletes: “I hope that you will ‘swim’ toward ever higher,
unmatchable ideals.”

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