TORINO, Italy – Laura Bush arrived at the Torino Olympics with a rooting interest.
The first lady led the U.S. delegation at Friday's opening ceremonies and was looking forward to watching fellow Texan Chad Hedrick begin his bid for the first of five gold medals in speedskating.
"I hear he's a favorite, and he's a favorite of mine," Mrs. Bush said. "And so I'm really excited about it."
Hedrick will compete in the 5,000 meters — his best event — on Saturday. He's also entered in the 1,000, 1,500, 10,000 and team pursuit.
Mrs. Bush traveled to Torino from Rome where she met with Pope Bendict XVI, had lunch with Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi and visited a hospital for a breast cancer awareness event. Joining the first lady on the trip was her daughter, Barbara.
Mrs. Bush was scheduled to meet with the U.S. Olympic team before the opening ceremonies.
"It was an honor and a thrill to have the chance to meet His Holiness, Pope Benedict, and then to have lunch with Prime Minister Berlusconi. ... I think Italy and the U.S. have a very strong friendship and relationship, and I'm proud of that," Mrs. Bush said.
In addition to speedskating, the first lady planned to watch the pairs skating and the U.S. women's hockey opener against Switzerland on Saturday.
"I'm really looking forward to it," she said.
The delegation led by the first lady included former Olympians Dorothy Hamill, Kerri Strug, Eric Heiden, Debi Thomas and Herschel Walker.
If Hedrick achieves his goal of five golds, it would match the record set by Heiden in 1980.