The Williams sisters – Venus and Serena – have each won singles Olympic gold, have combined for three more pieces of Olympic hardware in doubles, and are apparently prepping for another run in Rio four years from now. But how would they fare in a game of table tennis against Jeff Daniels – in his dreams? Thanks to the new iPhone ad that came out Wednesday, we now know. And the answer is: poorly.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Shortly after Jesse Owens returned home from his snubbing by Adolph Hitler at the 1936 Olympics, he and America’s 17 other black Olympians found a less-than-welcoming reception from their own government, as well.
On Thursday, relatives of those 1936 African-American Olympians will be welcomed to the White House and will get to shake the president’s hand – an honor Owens and the others didn’t receive, the way some of their white counterparts did, after they returned home from Berlin 80 years ago.
U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun announced the visit Wednesday night at a Team USA Awards ceremony.
“That is why I’m here 80 years later, to recognize the senselessness (of not inviting them to the White House), and to pay tribute to all the progress that has come since,” Blackmun said.
The announcement came on the same night the USOC invited Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who were booted from the 1968 Olympics for their gloved-fist protest on the medals stand, to be part of the awards show. Smith and Carlos hadn’t been involved in an official USOC event since being sent home from Mexico City. The gold- and bronze-medal-winning sprinters will be at the White House on Thursday, as well.
At the 1936 Olympics , Owens won four gold medals, but it was the message Owens’ victories sent by winning in Nazi Germany and undercutting Hitler’s white-supremacy dogma that stood as the lasting memory of those games.
Owens returned to a segregated America where he had trouble finding steady work and where, according to his interviews in later years, the president, Franklin Roosevelt, never sent him any words of congratulations or an invitation to the White House.
Decades later, Owens was acknowledged and honored at the White House. In 1976, President Gerald Ford presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The stories of the other 17 blacks on that team were less-widely known. Thursday’s event was meant to give a long-overdue White House recognition to those athletes, who accounted for 14 of America’s 56 medals in Berlin.
Owens’ daughter, Marlene Owens-Rankin, will be among the relatives at the White House.
“To be able to go to the White House 80 years later with Barack Obama as president and also with the other 1936 Olympians that really didn’t get the exposure that my grandfather did, for various reasons, I think it would make him so happy,” said Owens’ granddaughter, Marlene Dortch.
Simone Biles does not know where she will be next October, when the 2017 World Championships will be held. Understandable, considering it is hard enough for her to keep track of where she will be tomorrow.
She has been living out of a suitcase, a very organized suitcase with pants on one side and tops on the other, since winning four Olympic gold medals in Rio. Her whirlwind travel schedule is full of media appearances, sponsor visits and a USA Gymnastics tour of shows. More than once she has woken up in a hotel, unsure which city she was in.
“Everything has happened so fast,” she said in a phone interview from the Team USA Awards red carpet in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. “But it’s definitely amazing.”
Biles, 19, reiterated that she plans on taking a break from competition for about a year.
“There’s no way I could train 100% and still do everything that I am doing now,” she said.
Biles is not ready to set a date for her return to competitive gymnastics. She is not planning on entering the 2017 P&G Championships, which will be held Aug. 17-20, almost exactly a year after the 2016 Olympics.
“Oh goodness, I think that still falls under a year,” she said. “We will see. I could always change my mind.”
The 2017 World Championships will be held next October in Montreal. None of the previous four U.S. Olympic women’s all-around champions competed at Worlds the year after their Olympic triumphs, but Biles has not ruled it out.
She was asked if she had thought about competing in Montreal.
“I have and I haven’t,” said Biles, the three-time defending world all-around champion. “I try not to think too far ahead.”
It remains to be seen who will coach her once she returns to training. Aimee Boorman, who coached Biles since she was 7, is moving from Texas for a new gymnastics job in Florida.
Biles “loves Florida” and “thinks the whole state is beautiful” based on her two visits to the Sunshine State. But she is not sure if she will follow her coach to Florida.
“Florida is quite a ways away, but anything can happen,” she said. “We will have to see whenever I decide to start up again.”
Biles was speaking on behalf DICK’s Sporting Goods, who pledged a $1,000 donation for every Olympic and Paralympic Games medal won by a U.S. athlete in Rio. By winning five Olympics medals, Biles was directly responsible for a $5,000 contribution.
There are six Olympic medals available for female artistic gymnastics. Biles did not compete in the uneven bars final in Rio, but that could change at the Tokyo Games.
“My bar just needs to be a little bit stronger,” she said. “We’ll have to see once I go back to training to up my difficulty if it’s possible for me to get a sixth.”
“I have no idea when this whole process slows down,” Biles said. “That would be a question for the world, not me.”Follow @srubinroit