Obama celebrates 2016 Olympic athletes at White House

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President Obama honors Olympic athletes at White House
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President Obama honors Olympic athletes at White House
U.S. President Barack Obama jokes with 2016 Olympic individual all-around gymnast Simone Arianne Biles as he welcomes U.S. Olympic and Paralympics teams at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 29, 2016. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
U.S. Olympic and Paralympics teams gather to be greeted by President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 29, 2016. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 29: U.S. President Barack Obama speaks as Josh Brunais and Vice President Joe Biden stand by during an East Room event at the White House September 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcome the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House to honor their participation and success in the Rio Olympic Games this year. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 29: U.S. President Barack Obam (R) is presented with a Team USA surfboard by Olympian Simone Biles (L) as first lady Michelle Obama (2nd L) looks on during an East Room event at the White House September 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcome the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House to honor their participation and success in the Rio Olympic Games this year. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 29: (L-R) U.S. President Barack Obama is presented with a Team USA surfboard by Olympian Josh Brunais as Vice President Joseph Biden looks on during an East Room event at the White House September 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcome the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House to honor their participation and success in the Rio Olympic Games this year. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
US Olympic sprinter Tommie Smith, who raised his fist in the air on the medal podium during the 1968 Olympics, speaks with members of the 2016 US Olympic team during a ceremony hosted by US President Barack Obama honoring the 2016 US Olympic and Paralympic teams during an event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, September 29, 2016. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 29: Members of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes take pictures of President Obama as he speaks during an East Room event at the White House September 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcome the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House to honor their participation and success in the Rio Olympic Games this year. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Ryan Boyle, a cyclist on the US Paralympic team, holds up his medal during a ceremony hosted by US President Barack Obama honoring the 2016 US Olympic and Paralympic teams during an event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, September 29, 2016. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 29: U.S. Olympians (L-R) Allyson Felix, Connor Fields, Katie Ledecky, Brad Snyder and Tatyana McFadden speak to members of the media at the North Portico after an East Room event at the White House September 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcome the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House to honor their participation and success in the Rio Olympic Games this year. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 29: Members of the Paralympic team head to East Room of the White House on September 29, 2016 in Washington, DC. President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama honored U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes for their participation and success in this years Games in Rio. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON, Sept 29 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama welcomed the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams to the White House on Thursday to celebrate their record-breaking run in Rio.

Hundreds of Olympic athletes clad in red Nike track jackets squeezed into the East Room of the White House as rainy weather forced the reception indoors.

"I was going to do a floor routine on the way out with Simone, but we decided it was a little too crowded," Obama quipped at the start of his remarks, referring to gold medal- winning gymnast Simone Biles.

"And you can't touch your toes," joked first lady Michelle Obama, who stood with the president at the podium, along with Biles, Vice President Joe Biden and Paralympic soccer player Josh Brunais.

President Obama praised Team USA for winning 46 gold medals and for making the United States the first country in 40 years to top the medal chart in every category.

Women especially dominated the games this year, he said.

"2016 belonged to America's women Olympians," Obama said. "Our women alone won more gold than most countries did."

Obama also paid tribute during the reception to former Olympic athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who were invited to attend the ceremony by the U.S. Olympic Committee. The two African-American athletes were sent home from the 1968 Olympic Games for their raised-fist protest on the medals podium.

"Their powerful silent protest in the 1968 Games was controversial, but it woke folks up and created greater opportunity for those that followed," Obama said.

The actions of Smith and Carlos have garnered more attention in recent weeks as African-American National Football League and college players have faced a backlash for protesting racial injustice during games.

Obama attributed part of the success of the U.S. Olympic team to its diversity.

"That's one of the most extraordinary things about our Olympic team," he said. "There's no kid in America who can't look at our Olympic team and see themselves somewhere."

After his remarks, Biles and Brunais presented Obama with two surf boards signed by Olympians to commemorate the addition of surfing to the 2020 summer Olympics.

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