Sports Lovers in the White House

Publish date:
Social count:

Television coverage of this weekend's first Olympic match-ups seemed at times a presidential Where's Waldo, with President Bush cheering at the Water Cube for Michael Phelps' first victories, flashing a thumbs-up from the stands at the U.S.-China men's basketball game, or hitting the sand with the women's beach volleyball team.

But though he may have been the most visible fan in Beijing, Bush isn't alone among U.S. presidents when it comes to being a sports lover. And some of the athletic endeavors of past commanders-in-chief aren't quite what you'd expect.

He may have been on the skinny side, but legend has it the 22-year-old Abraham Lincoln was a formidable wrestling opponent, taking on challengers in the streets of New Salem, Ill. And while Bill Clinton shocked few naming golf as his favorite sport -- "even though it doesn't burn a lot of calories, it makes my mind calm" -- Teddy Roosevelt most certainly raised some eyebrows in 1904 when he began taking jujitsu lessons from judo master Yamashita Yoshiaki.

It may be no surprise that when it comes to early presidents, walking and horseback riding win out as the athletic activities of choice. But breaking the mold are Rutherford B. Hayes' White House croquet and Richard Nixon's penchant for bowling.