First lady Michelle Obama gets a lift from U.S. wrestler Elena Pirozhkova. (Twitpic from Clarissa Chun)
Michelle Obama. (Getty Images News)
By Gary Mihoces, USA TODAY
LONDON - Body lifts are routine in Olympic wrestling.
U.S. wrestler Elena Pirozhkova hoisted First Lady Michelle Obama off the ground in a kinder, gentler and most uncommon fashion Friday.
It happened during the First Lady's visit to Team USA's training center at the University of East London's Docklands camp.
Pirozhkova, 25, a member of the U.S. women's freestyle team, said she figured a special moment merited a special greeting.
"Even before she made the rounds I thought I can't just hug her like everybody else," Pirozhkova, who stands 5 feet 5 and competes in the 138.75-pound class, said in a statement released by USA Wrestling.
"I hugged her, and then I asked her if I could pick her up. I think she was nervous. I went slow. I just picked her up. I wanted to ask her permission. There was security all around. And she gave it. I will only meet her once. I wanted to do something different.''
Pirozhkova, a native of Russia, moved to the USA with her family when she was 3 years old. She grew up in Greenfield, Mass. In 2010, she returned to Russia for the world championships and won a silver medal.
Clarissa Chun, Pirozhkova's 105.5-pound teammate, took a photo of the lift and sent it out on Twitter: "Elena picked up the First Lady."
Chun, who is from Hawaii, also tweeted: "The First Lady, showing love for the 808! #hawaiipride."
The 808 is the area code of President Obama's home state of Hawaii.