MANSFIELD, Ohio — America’s newest sensations — the U.S. women’s gymnastics team — and one of its most enduring — swimmer Michael Phelps — have a fan in the White House.

On his way to a campaign event here, President Obama called the five members of the women’s squad to congratulate them for “bringing home the gold” Tuesday night. It was the U.S. women’s gymnastic team’s first gold medal since 1996 and second in Olympic history.


U.S. gymnasts McKayla Maroney, Kyla Ross, Alexandra Raisman, Gabrielle Douglas and Jordyn Wieber display their gold medals at the Artistic Gymnastics women's team final at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Tuesday, in London. (Matt Dunham/AP)

To Reisman, Obama said he and wife Michelle “have watched and decided of all the Olympians you guys amaze us the most.”

He told Wieber that he was “so impressed by how you bounced back and led the team. Tell your parents I’m proud of them too. I don’t think I could watch if I were them.”

“Way to nail that vault,” he told Maroney. “It was unbelievable.”

He remarked to Ross that she was “really steady,” adding: “I was impressed by how cool you were. I don’t know how you do what you do especially the balance beam.”

And to Douglas, Obama said: “You just tore it up. I know how hard you worked to get there.” And: “Keep at it. Stay cool.”

In Mansfield, Obama told his crowd of supporters that he marveled at the gymnasts’ ability to flip across the balance beam, saying it looks much more difficult than, say, running track or swimming.

“These gymnastics folks, I don’t understand how they do what they do,” the president said at the outset of his remarks to supporters here. “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. So anyway, we could not be prouder of them.”

While the first lady was in London to see the opening days of the Games in person, Obama, a rabid sports fan, has been stuck watching on television—stuck in the United States with a heavy campaign schedule.

But he had time to send a Twitter message to Phelps on Tuesday after he set the all-time record for Olympic medals with 19.


Michael Phelps poses with his gold medal for the men's 4x200-meter freestyle relay swimming final at the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park in London, Tuesday. (Matt Slocum/AP)

“Thank you Mr. President!!” Phelps responded on his own Twitter account. “It’s an honor representing the #USA !! The best country in the world!!”

Obama later called Phelps too, calling him, “the greatest Olympian ever! We couldn’t be prouder,” the president said.

In Mansfield, Obama also made sure to give a shout out to several Ohio-bred athletes who are competing in the Olympics and the Paralympics. He noted that Abby Johnston from Upper Arlington won a silver medal in diving, and mentioned Army Specialist Justin Lester of Akron, who is on the U.S. wrestling team.

Despite the naked appeal to swing state voters here, Obama added: “The wonderful thing about the Olympics is it reminds us that for all our differences, when it comes down to our country, we’re Americans first. And we could not be prouder of them and everything they’re doing on our behalf.”