By Kevin Askeland
Barack Obama was elected as the 44th president of the United States on Tuesday, but where does he rank among the most athletic presidents of all time? At 47, Obama regularly plays basketball and is an unabashed fan of the game. How do his skills match up with the other 43 leaders of our country? Here’s a look at our country’s most athletic presidents.
10. George W. Bush
The one-time part owner of the Texas Rangers, Bush has showed off his throwing arm on numerous occasions in throwing out the first pitch at Major League ballgames. Like his father, Bush played baseball at Yale and has also enjoyed running and cycling in his leisure time.
9. Abraham Lincoln
Lincoln was known as a pretty fair wrestler in his youth. Most noteworthy was a wrestling match against Jack Armstrong in 1831 in New Salem. Armstrong was considered the best fighter in the area, but several accounts of the match have Lincoln winning handily. Lincoln was also known for his strength reportedly carried a load of 600 pounds.
8. John F. Kennedy
Kennedy was a swimmer at Harvard and won an intercollegiate sailing championship with his brother Joe. He also played football and the family touch football games on the White House lawn were legendary during his term as president.
7. Jimmy Carter
Carter was president in the late 1970s – right when the running craze hit America. A cross country runner in the service, Carter was often shown running for recreation during his White House days. In high school in Plains, Ga., Carter was a standout in basketball and reportedly played baseball while serving in the Navy.
6. Ronald Reagan
Reagan may have been better known for portraying athletes in the movies than actually being an athlete. He played George Gipp in the movie “Knute Rockne, All-American” and Grover Alexander in “The Winning Team.” Reagan graduated from Dixon High School in Illinois where he played sports. According to Reagan, he was lifeguard and saved 77 lives in 1926. He also reportedly played football at Eureka College. Riding horseback and working on his California ranch were some of the more physical activities he participated in during his two terms as president.
5. Barack Obama
The newly-elected president has made no secret of his love for the game of basketball. Often shown playing pickup games during his campaign, Obama is reported to have led Occidental College in scoring in 1979; however other reports list him as a member of the JV team, not the varsity. Obama graduated from Punahou High School in Hawaii, which has won 322 state championships, the most of any school in the nation.
4. Theodore Roosevelt
Roosevelt was a rugged outdoorsman who was known for his marksmanship. Roosevelt also took boxing lessons as a youth and enjoyed the sport up until his presidency when he was injured in one eye and was forced to give up the sport.
3. George H.W. Bush
During his days at Yale, Bush was a left-handed first baseman and played in the first two College World Series. He was a team captain and batted .354 his senior year with a pair of home runs. He has also been an avid golfer in his later years.
2. Dwight Eisenhower
Eisenhower was a talented running back at West Point and participated in the famous Carlisle vs. Army game in 1912 that included Jim Thorpe (Thorpe’s Carlisle team won). Eisenhower was a graduate of Abilene High School in Kansas. Eisenhower’s football career came to an end, however, when he injured his knee. The 34th president also enjoyed golfing during his two terms in office.
1. Gerald Ford
Ford was the center on two national championship teams at Michigan (1932, 1933). He earned team MVP honors his senior year and was reportedly offered contracts by both the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers, but he decided to go into politics instead. Ford also played in the College All-Star Game against the Chicago Bears as well as the East-West Shrine Game. Ford graduated from Grand Rapids South High School where he was an all-city player.