MANSFIELD, Ohio – President Barack Obama Wednesday lauded the most decorated Olympian Michael Phelps and marveled at how triumphant US gymnasts managed to perform daring feats and not “bust” their heads.
At the start of a campaign event in Ohio, the sports mad president said he had telephoned the American women’s gymnastics team which struck gold on Tuesday at the London Olympics.
He said he could identify with runners or swimmers like Phelps, even though their performances were staggering, but could not fathom the expertise of gymnasts.
“These gymnastic folks — I don’t understand how they do what they do. So I told these young ladies, as I was congratulating them, how do you not bust your head every time you’re on that little balance beam?
“I couldn’t walk across that balance beam.”
The win on Tuesday brought the United States its first Olympic gymnastics team gold since the Atlanta Games in 1996.
Obama also congratulated Phelps, for “the most medals we have ever seen,” after he became the most prolific Olympian on Tuesday by winning his 19th medal in the 4x200m freestyle relay.
The president also late Tuesday wrote a personal tweet, signed “-bo” reading “Congrats to Michael Phelps for breaking the all-time Olympic medal record. You’ve made your country proud.”
Obama also held up the US Olympics team Wednesday as a paragon of national unity, at a time of deep political divisions as an election looms in November.
“When it comes down to our country, we’re Americans first,” he said, before launching into his stump speech and assaulting Republican Mitt Romney’s tax plans.