Event was also attended by relatives of Jesse Owens and Americas 17 other black athletes from the 1936 Olympics for the acknowledgement they did not receive
Gymnast Simone Biles stood tall at the White House on Thursday though not quite as tall as first lady Michelle Obama.
The 19-year-old Olympian found herself being playfully used as an arm rest by 5ft 11in Michelle at a ceremony honouring the 2016 US summer Olympic and Paralympic teams.
Only one American woman has ever won gold on the vault, Barack Obama said. Only one American has won four golds in gymnastics in a single Games. That would be this young lady, Simone Biles.
The event was attended by relatives of Jesse Owens and Americas 17 other black athletes from the 1936 Olympics for the acknowledgement they, unlike their white counterparts, did not receive from Franklin Roosevelt 80 years ago.
Sprinter Allyson Felix, the only female track and field athlete to win six golds, told reporters afterwards: Its been just so moving, so inspiring. Were just honored to be able to share this moment with them.
Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who raised gloved fists on the podium at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968 in what they called a human rights salute, were also present. Felix reflected: Were inspired by what they did. It was a peaceful protest and it brought so much attention.
Especially with everything thats happening now, as athletes we do have a voice and we want to show that change should happen, so we want to use your voice for that in a peaceful way because we still are so proud to represent this country.
Obama praised the diversity of the 2016 Olympic team, which ranked first in the medal table with 46 golds. Simone Manuel had become the only African American woman to win a swimming gold, he noted.
Imagine what it means for a young girl or a young boy who sees somebody who looks like them doing something and being the best at what they do, he said. Theres no kid in America who cant look at our Olympic team and see themselves somewhere.
The president also noted that the athletes are all very good-looking, just exuding health. Like everybodys teeth are really white and their eyes are really shiny.
His wife piped up: Fruits and vegetables!