Jesse Owens received the Presidential Medal of Freedom during a ceremony in the East Garden of the White House on August 5, 1976. President Ford presented him with the nation’s highest civilian honor 40 years after he won four gold medals at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.
On this day in 1980: President Jimmy Carter told the U.S. Olympic team that he was ordering a boycott of the Summer Games in Moscow. Carter’s boycott of the Moscow Olympics was retaliation for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and Kremlin rejection of his demand to pullout. Carter also cut off grain shipments to the Soviets and banned Soviet fishing boats from U.S. territorial waters. The Soviets retaliated for the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, by boycotting the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles.
Olympic track and field gold medalist Wilma Rudolph was invited to the White House after her victories in the 1960 Olympics. In this photograph, she is in the Oval Office with President John F. Kennedy.
At the 1960 Olympics in Rome, Rudolph became “the fastest woman in the world” and the first American woman to win three gold medals in one Olympics. She won the 100- and 200-meter races and anchored the U.S. team to victory in the 4 x 100-meter relay.
The first integrated events in Rudolph’s hometown of Clarksville, Tennessee, were the parade and banquet given in honor of her victories.
Rudolph died of cancer in 1994 at age 55. You can read more about her life and career here.
Also in the photo are Rudolph’s mother Blanche Rudolph, Robert Logan (standing), Vice President Johnson, and Edward Temple, the coach of the 1960 women’s Olympic track team.
On this day in 1984, Mary Lou Retton wins gold
Before Gabby Douglas, there was Mary Lou. Here, the first American woman to win the Olympic gold medal in the all-around gymnastics competition stands shoulder-to-head with President Ronald Reagan.
Between Mary Lou Retton and Gabrielle “the Flying Squirrel” Douglas, there have been only two other American all-around champions; Douglas is the first to come home with both this and the team gold.
Photo from the Reagan Library: President Reagan posing with Mary Lou Retton and the 1984 U.S. Olympic team at the Century Plaza Hotel, Los Angeles, California. 8/13/84.
A look back at the last US team to win gold in women’s gymnastics!
The National Archives holds Federal records, so we don’t have any pictures of this year’s gold-medal winning gymnasts (but if they visit the White House when they come home, we will eventually have those records). Instead, here’s a Presidential photograph from the William J. Clinton Presidential Library from 1996, the last time the American team won gold in women’s gymnastics: President Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Chelsea Clinton pose for a photo with the U.S. Olympic Women’s Gymnastics Team in the Blue Room, August 7, 1996. (Photographer: Bob McNeely)
Who is your favorite gymnast of the 2012 Fab Five?
This summer marks the 116th anniversary of the modern Olympic games, which began on April 6, 1896 in Athens, Greece.
Ok, we really just wanted an excuse to post this photo of President Reagan and gold (and silver, and bronze) medal-winning gymnast Mary Lou Retton, taken with the 1984 U.S. Olympic team at the Century Plaza Hotel, Los Angeles, California.
The President participated in a briefing on the situation in Afghanistan and the boycot [sic] of the Summer Olympic games in Moscow with members of the U.S. Summer Olympic Team.