President Barack Obama telephoned the five members of Team USA's women gymnasts on Wednesday to congratulate them on winning the gold in London—and to express his astonishment at their gravity-defying exploits.
"I told these young ladies, as I was congratulating them: 'How do you not bust your head every time you're on that little balance beam? I couldn't walk across that balance beam," Obama told supporters at a campaign rally in Mansfield, Ohio.
The president expressed pride in all of America's athletes in London, underlining that "the wonderful thing about the Olympics is, it reminds us that for all our differences, when it comes down to our country, we're Americans first."
"And we could not be prouder of them and everything they're doing on our behalf," said Obama. But the gymnastics competition clearly left its mark on the basketball- and golf-loving president.
"I have to tell you, when I'm watching—when people run track, you know, I understand. I know how to run, they're just much faster. And I know how to swim, they just swim much better than I do," he said.
"These gymnastics folks, I don't understand how they do what they do," he said.
The White House said later that Obama had spoken to Aly Reisman, Jordyn Wieber, McKayla Maroney, Kyla Ross and Gabby Douglas, in that order, according to a pool report from Laura Meckler of the Wall Street Journal. In addition to his congratulations, Obama had a little message for each one.
To Reisman: "Michelle and have watched and decided of all the Olympians you guys amaze us the most."
To Wieber: "I'm so impressed by how you bounced back and led the team. Tell your parents I'm proud of them, too. I don't think I could watch if I were them."
To Maroney: "Way to nail that vault. It was unbelievable."
To Ross: He remarked how she was "really steady" and declared himself "impressed by how cool you were. I don't know how you do what you do—especially the balance beam."
To Douglas: "You just tore it up. I know how hard you worked to get there." And: "Keep at it. Stay cool."
UPDATE 2:19 p.m.: This post has been updated to include the details of each telephone call, as shared by the White House through the print pool reporter.