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SOCHI, Russia -- In December, President Obama selected an official U.S. Olympic delegation unlike any other, designed solely to send a message of disgust for Russian President Vladimir Putin's anti-gay propaganda law.

Early Friday afternoon, the delegation delivered the message on Russian soil.

"We feel very strongly (about the official U.S.) message: tolerance and diversity," Olympic gold medalist Brian Boitano, who is openly gay, said at a hotel overlooking the Black Sea, little more than a mile from the site of Friday night's Opening Ceremony.

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"And that's why we're here. Everyone knows why we're here. We've made it obvious and quite public as to why Caitlin (Cahow) and I are supporting the delegation and are here. I think Russians know that and I think Americans know that and we're proud to come from a country who supports tolerance and diversity and we stand strong."

Cahow, a two-time Olympic-medal-winning ice hockey player who also is openly gay, said she was particularly aware of the millions in Russia's LGBT community who would be watching the U.S. delegation this weekend.

"If there's one person sitting out there watching me on television and realizing that there's someone like them out there and there is the opportunity that one day you may feel safe and you may feel like you can live your life, that's what I want to be able to do," she said afterward in an interview.

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"Even uplifting one person is a job well done for me. So I think it's a fantastic choice of delegation by the president for a number of issues, but certainly demonstrating the changes that we've made on the LGBT policy in the United States the last few years, which has really been astounding. I'm grateful and honored to be a part of a country that is really shifting the dialogue."

Cahow had been selected to represent the United States in the closing ceremony but replaced tennis legend Billie Jean King, who also is openly gay, when King had to miss the opening ceremony to remain home due to her mother's failing health.

In a phone interview last week, King told me she was looking forward to sending a hopeful message to the Russian LGBT community.

"I want to be helpful, encouraging and try to tell them they are not alone," she said.

"I like the way Brian Boitano said it recently: 'Just by getting off the plane, we're making a statement.'"

The Olympic medalists were joined by former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, White House aide Rob Nabors and U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul.

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