WASHINGTON, Feb 5 Former American tennis star
Billie Jean King will be unable to join the official U.S.
delegation attending the Sochi Winter Olympics opening
ceremonies due to a serious illness in her family, the White
House said on Wednesday.
King was one of three openly gay American athletes named to
the U.S. delegation, along with skating champion Brian Boitano
and ice hockey medalist Caitlin Cahow. Their selection was
intended to send a message against Russia's anti-gay laws.
"The president extends his thoughts and prayers to Ms. King
and her family in this difficult time," the White House said.
A statement from King said she is unable to attend because
of her mother's failing health.
"It is important for me to be with my mother and my brother
at this difficult time. I want to thank President Obama for
including me in this historic mission and I look forward to
supporting our athletes as they compete in Sochi," she said.
The White House said Cahow, originally named as a member of
the delegation in the closing ceremonies, will instead serve in
King's place as a member of the delegation for the opening
(Reporting By Steve Holland; editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)