What are Team USA athletes — Olympians, Paralympians and hopefuls — up to when they're not competing? They're training. They're practicing. They're traveling to competitions and meets and games and tournaments. They're relaxing. They're getting engaged and married and having children. They're taking hard-earned vacations. Or retiring. Or coping with the raw emotions that come from losing and winning. And they're sharing. Through the reach of social media, we're able to follow along on their often extraordinary journeys. We'll catch you up each week on what's "Red, White & Trending."
Rain, Rain, Go Away
Wednesday in Georgia, one day before the Masters teed off at Augusta, certainly didn’t show off the meticulously manicured and almost impossibly bright course’s best side. Heavy winds and rain made for quite a weather event, streaking reds and oranges and yellows across the radar views of anyone tuning in to coverage. Still, none of that was going to dampen the enthusiasm of Rio Olympian Bubba Watson’s son on what is typically a festive Masters Eve day.
As part of one of the great weeks on the sporting calendar — an annual multi-sport dreamscape that involves Opening Day in professional baseball and the NCAA’s Frozen Four, in addition to the Masters — a new NCAA basketball national champion was crowned to conclude another round of March Madness. And while Oregon didn’t make it to the final this past Monday night, one Olympic gold medalist had a special reason for rooting for the Ducks …
Kevin Love, part of the defending NBA champion Cavaliers with fellow Olympians Kyrie Irving and LeBron James, had a better weekend than Oregon, earning double-doubles in two Cleveland wins. Turns out the Cavs’ power forward’s dad has a pretty interesting story himself, too. Stan, whose brother is The Beach Boys’ Mike Love, went on to become a first-round draft pick in the NBA.
On the other hand, by way of a 71-65 win over Gonzaga in the final, North Carolina did win its title a few nights after advancing past the Ducks, much to the delight of a few vocal Tar Heels fans with Team USA ties, including perhaps the most famous basketball brand of them all …
Ceiling.— Jordan (@Jumpman23) April 4, 2017
Heels!!! Congrats to @UNC_Basketball .— Mia Hamm (@MiaHamm) April 4, 2017
And, of course, there was Olympic champion basketball player Dawn Staley winning the NCAA women’s national title as coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks, which even had one of the best players in NBA history and a former president tweeting.
Congrats to @dawnstaley on becoming the 1st Olympian, former WNBA star & AA to be named coach for the USA women's natl basketball team!— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) April 2, 2017
The glow of a championship net hasn’t yet worn off, either.
Never Too Early …
PyeongChang may be the next Olympic Winter Games on the horizon, but summer athletes have something else set on their internal clocks. For Rio slalom canoeist Michal Smolen, Tokyo, which is still more that 1,200 days away, is right there at the very front of his thoughts.
Team USA wrapped up its World Figure Skating Championships in Helsinki by having a ball …
Tour de Finland! 🚴🇫🇮💙 pic.twitter.com/ANCPfmO0i3— Jason Brown (@jasonbskates) April 3, 2017
Injured skater Adam Rippon, while rehabbing at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, watched from afar while getting more out of the event than he might have expected.
Congratulations to everyone at @helsinki_2017. Amazing skates by so many. You've all single handedly healed my bones and I'm so inspired ❤️— Adam Rippon (@Adaripp) April 1, 2017
With spring on the way, the grueling seasons of competition for Team USA’s winter athletes are coming to an end. And that timing, particularly heading into an Olympic year, brings out all sorts of introspection and reflection heading into 2018.
“ … get ready for this jelly.”
This year easily has been my most challenging season to date. It seemed to become an endless climb up a mountain that was challenging me more every step I took. From losing my training partner to a heartbreak that tore me to shreds, my real life kept creeping on into my skating life. I had to face the fact that I was human, and could hurt, but I learned that I am stronger than I ever imagined possible. I made it to the end alive and the only place to go is up. 2018, get ready for this jelly.
“ … my teammates really killed it this season.”
“I am not satisfied …”
Annnnddddd I did win something 🤓 extremely thankful for all the people who got me to where I am. I am not satisfied with my season which is good. I'm hungry for the next. Hungry for more. I'll be ready to do whatever it takes to get what I want, after a much needed break. Lots of love everyone! Thank you 💋🐯💫 #teamresi
“… we are officially done!”
Never-Ending (Winter) Story
Well, not every winter season is over yet — as Olympic volleyball medalist brothers Erik and Kawika Shoji can attest.
Olympic champion gymnastic Shawn Johnson East is still chasing winter, too. Though we don’t yet know why.
This, from Olympic alpine skier Travis Ganong, is just nuts.
Conquering Another Mountain
Overcoming challenges is nothing new to multi-sport Paralympic star and three-time gold medalist Alana Nichols, who was recently moved to tears by skiing. Laughter, too.
The best part about the @silvertonmtn crew is that they picked me up every time I fell but they made sure to laugh first! Abbi Hills best commentary ever😂 #getsome #partytrick #silvertonmountain #itssteeperthanitlooks @silvertonskishop @loomansn @sarakay82 @snobladesofglory @enablingtech this rig rocked #silvertonmountain!
I've never been moved to tears after skiing until yesterday after my second and last run @silvertonmtn. I looked back at the insanely beautiful and challenging mountain I got to ski with one of my besties @sarakay82 and all the people that made it happen for me @loomansn @silvertonskishop @mikeyloyer @jonjkz @abbihills and @snobladesofglory and my eyes just filled up with gratitude. The amount of energy and teamwork it took to hike me out at the bottom of those runs and the selfless dedication of that crew that just genuinely wanted to make it happen for me... all the feels! Still can't believe it. #epic #gratitude #isthisreallife #silvertonmountain @enablingtechnologies @nordicaski
How’s this for cross training for two-time Olympic alpine skier Resi Stiegler?
Reason To Smile
It seems wholly appropriate that a tooth would be lost at a hockey game …
A pair of Team USA gold medalists, including figure skating legend Dorothy Hamill and two-time Olympic fencing champion Mariel Zagunis, squared off as part of a foursome in a sports-themed cooking competition.
A few doses of awwwwww, brought to you by Rio steeplechase medalist Emma Coburn and Paralympic triathlon medalist Melissa Stockwell …
Medalist and two-time Olympic ice hockey player Zach Parise came up with a touching tribute to his father, J.P., who passed away in 2015, as part of a North Stars throw-back warmup jersey pregame this past week. Zach, a forward for the Minnesota Wild who grew up in the State of Hockey while his dad played for the North Stars, wore his father’s gloves and helmet during the event. Considering J.P. wore No. 11, Zach’s wearing it for the Wild added another touch of authenticity.
After warmups, Zach went out and scored a goal five minutes into the game.
Like champions, Team USA showed up for April Fool’s Day. Olympic swimming legend Michael Phelps (more on Phelps in a bit) swung for the fences, tantalizing the swimming and sporting world with the idea that a long-awaited announcement was in the cards …
Some dreams/goals you just can't get rid of...been doing a lot of thinking n I've decided that I'm going 2 make another comeback! #tokyo2020— Michael Phelps (@MichaelPhelps) April 1, 2017
Now, here’s a comeback, that of two-time defending Olympic judoka Kayla Harrison, that would have led to some significant impact, too …
Surrrreeee, the defending Olympic triathlon champion is due in August and Ironman Kona is set for October, but count Gwen Jorgensen … in?
#AprilFools :)— gwen jorgensen (@gwenjorgensen) April 2, 2017
World Cup champion and Olympic soccer midfielder Morgan Brian, for her part, was sneaky good …
Meanwhile, at USWNT camp, Brian’s fellow midfielder and Rio Olympian Allie Long — on the day of her Instagram takeover, no less — wound up on the wrong side of some shenanigans …
SJ's gag turned out to be better — and worse — than she might have thought …
My sincerest apologies. I never meant to target, offend, or come across as insensitive. I tried on a movie prop. Please forgive. #aprilfools— Shawn Johnson East (@ShawnJohnson) April 1, 2017
Where Phelps wasn’t kidding? Swimming with sharks …
Team USA’s athletes are driven by all sorts of motivations — the Olympic Games, pride, talent, dedication, family, among them — and, this season, Olympic sprinter Wallace Spearmon will have one more.