American Presidents Who Were Athletes Back In Their Day

Many American presidents were great athletes. From George Washington, who was known to be a skilled horseman, all the way to Barrack Obama, who was a well-known basketball player. Most presidents played different sports during their youth. Many also continued in their athletic pursuits even when they were in the White House.

Now, presidents are usually extraordinarily competitive, and this helps them become excellent athletes. It is also important to note that sports and political campaigns are comparable to each other since in both cases, you try to win as much as you can. In this regard, most presidents are great sportsmen.


In this review, we look at some of the most athletic American Presidents. These presidents were athletes back in the day, even before they became presidents. Check out who made our list below.

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Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln moved to Illinois as a young man and developed a great reputation as an amateur wrestler. In the early 1830s, there was a bet made by a general store owner that Lincoln couldn’t beat Jack Armstrong, who was a champion from a nearby town. The match was arranged, and people gathered from all over to witness it.

The two men grappled with each other. Armstrong, who was short and muscular got very close to overpowering Lincoln, but despite all of his efforts, Lincoln threw him, pinned his shoulders to the ground, and won the game. This is how great he was as a wrestler.


Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt used to be a sickly child, but he determinedly built his body up through vigorous exercises. While in college, he entered into various boxing tournaments that were fierce and required the ability to withstand punishment. Even after he became president, Roosevelt, continued to engage in sparring sessions with some of the aides and other employees in the white house.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

While in prep school, FDR was more of a debater than an athlete, but he was still on the football team. Additionally, he would sometimes explore boxing and distance running. At Harvard, he rowed for the school’s crew club, and even though he wasn’t a great athlete, he went on to become a great swimmer.

He was stricken with polio and lost his ability to walk at age 39. At this point, he discovered that water could support his weakened body. He started swimming at least three times each week to rebuild himself. This actually worked and within a short time, his stomach, arms, and lower back had gained enough strength to enable him to hang on to a podium while speaking. He could also move short distances with the help of a cane.


Dwight Eisenhower

Long before he was famous, Dwight Eisenhower received critical acclaim as a leader of the Allied forces, which were used to defeat Hitler. He was also a linebacker and a halfback on his varsity football team while he was at West Point.

In 1912, he played a game against Carlisle Indian School which had a renowned star at the time, Jim Thorpe. A few months earlier, Thorpe had won a pentathlon and decathlon at the Olympic Games in Stockholm.

Eisenhower dreamed of hitting Thorpe hard enough to knock him down during the contest, and he took his best shot, but Thorpe got up and shook it off. Even if his school lost to Carlisle, he was a great athlete. He was also in great demand as a football coach. As president, he had a passion for golf.

John F. Kennedy

JFK used to play left end and tackle in football while at Choate Hall, which was his prep school. He also swam on the varsity team for Harvard. In fact, JFK is probably one of the presidents who looked the fittest. However, the reality was that he was plagued with numerous health problems, which included Addison's disease and severe back pain.

His best sport, however, was golf. One of his biographers said that he had a wonderful swing, and he could have been a professional golfer. JFK also loved to watch sports and would often appear in sporting events.

During the Army-Navy football games, Kennedy would spend half the time on the army side and the other half on the Navy side. He was also well-known for his great devotion to the Boston Red Sox.

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Well, there are plenty of other presidents who were excellent athletes, but our list was limited to just these five. These were distinguished athletic individuals who went on to become presidents. Athletics kept them fit and strong enough to handle the demands of running the world.

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