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Updated Feb 15, 2014 - 1:07 pm

Obama names delegation to Olympic closing ceremony

In this June 4, 2007, file photo, tennis champion Billie Jean King is introduced during a town hall conversation hosted by the group Women for Hillary in New York. King will not attend Friday's opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympics in Russia because her mother is ill. King, chosen in December to help lead the U.S. delegation to the Sochi Games, has been outspoken in her opposition to Russia's anti-gay law and had planned to attend ice hockey and figure skating events and meet U.S. athletes during her three-day visit to the games. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow, File)

WASHINGTON -- Billie Jean King will attend the closing ceremony of the Sochi Olympics in Russia.

King, who didn't travel to the opening ceremony because of her mother's death, will join American speed skaters Bonnie Blair and Eric Heiden on Feb. 23 as part of President Barack Obama's official U.S. delegation.

King called it a ``privilege'' to attend.

``I will use this trip to honor the memory of my mother and to further my mission of equality,'' King said in a statement to The Associated Press. ``I am thankful to President Obama for including me and I look forward to supporting the men and women of Team USA in Sochi.''

Russia has been widely criticized for passing a national law last year that banned gay ``propaganda'' to minors.

King and two other openly gay athletes- Brian Boitano and Caitlin Cahow- were selected for the delegation at the opening ceremony. Obama said it showed the U.S. doesn't make distinctions based on sexual orientation.

Cahow, a member of the U.S. women's hockey team that won the bronze at the 2006 Turin Olympics and silver at the 2010 Vancouver Games, said she experienced no backlash in Russia, adding that everyone has been ``unbelievable welcoming.''

The White House said Friday the closing ceremony delegation will be headed by Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and includes Michael McFaul, the U.S. ambassador to Russia. The delegation will attend athletic competitions and meet with U.S. athletes.

Blair won five Olympic gold medals and a bronze in speed skating, and Eric Heiden earned five Olympic golds.

King was selected in December to help lead the delegation. Two days before the Feb. 7 opening ceremony in Sochi, King announced she wouldn't attend because of her mother's failing health.

Betty Moffitt, 91, died at her home in Arizona on the day of the opening ceremony, with King and brother Randy Moffitt at her side.

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