Winter Olympians visit White House

Updated: May 17, 2006, 1:40 PM ET
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- President Bush welcomed "dudes and dudesses" from the U.S. Winter Olympic team on Wednesday in a White House ceremony that included a most unusual prop -- a signed football jersey from Donovan McNabb.

George Bush
AP PhotoPresident Bush signs autographs for Olympic athletes Wednesday at the White House.

About 190 Olympians and Paralympians from the Torino Games gathered on the sunny South Lawn for the traditional post-Olympic visit, where the president offered praise for athletes representing sports both traditional and hip.

"We want to thank all the dudes and dudesses of the snowboarders who are here," Bush said.

After speeches by Bush and speedskater Chris Witty, the president was presented with an Olympic torch and was quickly surrounded by athletes who treated him like a celebrity gold medalist. Bush signed a bobblehead doll, posters, jackets and posed for photos -- but somehow seemed not to notice when skier-turned-football-player Jeremy Bloom offered the Philadelphia Eagles jersey signed by McNabb.

So Bloom, who was drafted last month by the Eagles, did the next best thing: He gave the jersey to first lady Laura Bush.

"I was here a week before the draft at the Republican gala, and the president and I were talking about where I was going to go in the draft," Bloom said. "He's a big football fan, so I told him I'd bring him a signed jersey."

Bloom, trying to catch on the with the Eagles as a receiver, got the jersey during last week's minicamp. McNabb had no idea what the jersey was for, but Bloom hopes the quarterback likes the gesture.

"I'm trying to get some extra points," Bloom said with a laugh. "I'm trying to be a politician."

The ceremony wrapped up a three-day visit to the nation's capital for the athletes, who thought they had seen and heard everything possible about their Olympic adventure until Bush came up with "dudesses."

"That's a little different," snowboarder Kelly Clark said. "We don't really use that one too much."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press