By Imara Bright-Johnson, Culture Staff Writer
Posted 10:58 AM EST, Thurs., Oct. 6, 2016
On Sept. 29, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed back the 2016 Olympic Teams from Rio at the White House.
Though hundreds of athletes joined together for the reception, the Olympic women stole the spotlight. Obama acknowledged many of the outstanding accomplishments of the entire USA Team while reminding everyone that the women dominated the 2016 Games.
America was the country with the highest number of women competing in the games and won more gold medals collectively than most countries did total.
“2016 belonged to America’s women Olympians,” said Obama.
In his speech to the athletes, Obama highlighted the achievements of boxer Claressa Shields, cyclist Kristin Armstrong, track star Allyson Felix, swimmer Katie Ledecky and others. He gave a special shout-out to Simone Biles, the 19-year-old gymnast genius. Biles is one of the five “Final Five” gymnasts—all of which were in attendance at the White House and captured their visit via social media. A photo of Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian posing in the “splits” along side Obama was posted on the girls’ Instagrams.
“It was amazing. For them to be able to talk about specific moments, of them watching us and things that happened. That’s just so special,” said Felix. “When you’re running the country you don’t think you would have time to tune in to so much of the Olympics. [He] made it really special.”
Throughout his speech, Obama celebrated the diversity of Team USA, acknowledging that representation matters for America’s youth to look at their national team and see themselves in some way.
Families of the 18 African-Americans that competed in the 1963 Games were also guests of the First Family last Thursday. Obama paid homage to former Olympic athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the two African American athletes sent home during the 1968 Games for raising their fist as a protest on the medals podium. Obama acknowledged that their protest created an opportunity for other American athletes to follow suit.
This event marks the last time that the Obamas will have the opportunity to host Team USA in the White House. After the President concluded his speech, Simone Biles and Josh Brunais presented Obama with a surfboard filled with signatures from all of the members of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic team to signify the addition of surfing to the 2020 Games.