WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House says that former tennis great Billie Jean King, who couldn’t attend the opening of the Sochi Olympics in Russia because of her mother’s illness, will be a member of President Barack Obama’s official delegation to the Games’ closing ceremony.
Joining King will be American speed skaters Bonnie Blair, who won five Olympic gold medals and a bronze, and Eric Heiden, who earned five Olympic golds.
The delegation will attend athletic competitions, meet with U.S. athletes and attend the closing ceremony. The White House said Friday the delegation will be headed by Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and will also include Michael McFaul, the U.S. ambassador to Russia.
King was selected by Obama to help lead the U.S. delegation to the Games but was unable to attend the Feb. 7 opening because she wanted to be at the side of her ill mother, Betty Moffitt, who died the day of the Olympic opening at her home in Arizona.
King and two other openly gay athletes — Brian Boitano and Caitlin Cahow — were named for Obama’s delegation at the opening of the Winter Olympics to show that the U.S. doesn’t make distinctions based on sexual orientation.
Russia has been widely criticized for passing national laws banning what it called ‘‘gay propaganda.’’
Cahow, a member of the U.S. women’s hockey team that won the bronze in Turin and silver in Vancouver, says she’s experienced no backlash, adding that everyone has been ‘‘unbelievable welcoming.’’