By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.
Happy Presidents Day! Today, we take a look at some of the athletic accomplishments of some of our past U.S. Presidents. Did you know that our country’s first President, George Washington, was skilled in a wide number of sports, from archery and swimming to wrestling and billiards. Thomas Jefferson once called Washington the “best horseman of the age.” Washington was also reportedly an avid sword fighter.
Here are several other Presidents and their favorite athletic pastimes:
ABRAHAM LINCOLN – “Honest Abe” was a skilled amateur wrestler. He reportedly had only one recorded defeat in a dozen years of competing. In 1992, the National Wrestling Hall of Fame honored Lincoln as an “Outstanding American.”
THEODORE ROOSEVELT – As a student at Harvard, Roosevelt entered numerous boxing competitions. Even after he became President in 1901, he took part in sparring sessions with some of his aides. In his autobiography, Roosevelt admitted that he put a stop to his fight career after a young Army artillery captain threw a counterpunch that resulted in a permanent eye injury.
DWIGHT EISENHOWER – Eisenhower played football at West Point, starting at running back and linebacker. In a game against Carlisle in 1912, he tackled the legendary Jim Thorpe. Eisenhower also loved baseball. He once said, “Not making the baseball team at West Point was one of the greatest disappointments in my life – maybe my greatest.”
RICHARD NIXON – Although he was a passionate football fan – remember, he reportedly once gave Washington Redskins coach George Allen a play to run in the 1971 playoffs – Richard Nixon’s true sport may have been bowling. He’s the President who, in 1973, installed a single-lane bowling alley at the White House.
GERALD FORD – Among U.S Presidents, Ford was the most accomplished when it came to sports. He was a star center, linebacker and long snapper for the University of Michigan, leading the Wolverines to national championships in 1932 and ’33. In 1935, he played against the Chicago Bears in the Chicago College All-Star Game at Soldier Field. His No. 48 jersey was retired by the school in 1994.
JIMMY CARTER – Carter was regarded as an all-around athlete. He played tennis and basketball at Plains High School in Georgia. He was also part of the Naval Academy’s undefeated cross-country team. “He was always strong in the last 100, 150 yards,” noted his coach, Ellery Clark Jr. “Jimmy was an important member of the team.”
GEORGE H.W. BUSH – A lifelong baseball fan, the elder Bush played first base for Yale, helping the Bulldogs reach the College World Series twice. He led the team in fielding in 1948, compiling a .993 fielding percentage.
BARACK OBAMA – While growing up in Hawaii, Obama probably never dreamed he would one day become U.S. President. He did, however, envision himself as a star basketball player. At Punahou, he once wrote in a classmate’s yearbook: “Good luck in everything you do, and get that law degree. Someday when I am an all-pro basketballer, and I want to sue my team for more money, I’ll call on you.” Obama wore jersey “23” when he played for the Buffanblu, helping his school capture the 1979 state championship. Coming off the bench, he scored 2 points in the title game – crushing 60-28 win over Moanalua.