Ever wonder what Team USA athletes — Olympians, Paralympians, hopefuls and more — are 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. They're taking hard-earned vacations. They're coping with the raw emotions that come from losing and celebration of 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."
Greatness In Motion
Simply, we are witnessing the progression of greatness. Back in 2012 at the London Games, Katie Ledecky stormed into the swimming headlines as a 15-year-old when she won gold in the 800-meter freestyle and finished more than four seconds ahead of the silver medalist. As the youngest member of Team USA in London, she also set the American record at the time. Since, she has merely broken the world record in the 800, the 400 and the 1,500.
At the recent 2015 FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia, Ledecky won gold medals in the 200, 400, 800 and 1,500 free events. Not surprisingly, Ledecky was named the top female swimmer of the meet. And for all of these successes over the course of a few days, the Washington, D.C., native had this humble summation: That was fun.
Our three words? Look out, Rio.
Speaking Of Great Performances
Toronto was the scene for a number of record-setting efforts throughout the eight-day Parapan Am Games, which will officially wrap on Saturday with the Closing Ceremony. There are so many inspiring stories threaded through the 15-sport competition, and this has been no exception.
Team USA cyclists won both on the road and on the track, leading the cycling medal count with a total of 19 team medals, including seven gold. Paralympian Joe Berenyi, who lost his right arm in a construction accident (his Twitter handle is @lefty68usa), won three of those golds. Clearly, the team that bus selfies together, wins together.
World records also fell at the hands of Team USA athletes.
Jarryd Wallace, one of the best high school runners in the state of Georgia as recently as 2007 before losing much of his leg as a result of surgeries that began for chronic compartment syndrome, is now the fastest 100-meter T44 runner in the world, courtesy his 10.71 run to break the world record.
And Craig Spence, director of media and communications for the International Paralympic Committee, caught this gem from Wallace:
Through Thursday, Paralympic swimming gold medalist Mallory Weggemann had won five medals, two of which were gold, while fellow swimmer Haley Beranbaum had earned a gold medal among her total of five. Weggemann also offered this study in what it means to race with gratitude:
Yesterday we went into prelims hoping to make top 8 and get to finals... I ended up going into finals seeded 2nd and after one of my top 5 career best times I came home with the gold last night!!! I cannot thank everyone enough for all of their support through out this journey... My amazing parents, my family, @factoryagency11, my trainers and everyone else who believed in me along the way! However, last nights gold was for someone who believed in me when not many did, to someone who helped me find my love for the sport again and to someone who has been by me through some of my worst moments of my career and helped me keep my dream alive... My coach, @svd1071!! I have felt so blessed with all the love and support from my family and loved ones but even with that there was a point where I questioned if I could come back from this injury and Steve never gave up on me! I always say we are only as good as the people we surround ourselves with and I feel so incredibly lucky to have so much overwhelming support from so many! Here is to you .... Thank you and your family for all you have done to get be back to this point!! WE did it!!! #RedefineLimitations #TO2015 #NeverGiveIn #Road2Rio #TeamUSA
There was also some time for a little bit of fun in Toronto. Blind Paralympian sprinter David Brown, who won golds in the 100 and 200, also threw down a dunk.
While we're on the topic of basketball, we can take a look at some of the best in the world. The 2015 USA Basketball Men’s National Team gathered for a minicamp in Las Vegas this past week, which produced some news (LeBron James' Rio status) and a good deal of video. Perhaps most compelling for a fan of the game was this highlight reel slowed down and set to music:
This has been quite a summer for Megan Rapinoe. World Cup, World Cup celebration, cover of Sports Illustrated, the ESPYS, flying with the Blue Angels, and, now, this ...
Ah, to be an athlete. Not only do they receive a good deal of Team USA gear, but fans also occasionally come bearing gifts. In the case of U.S. Women's Soccer Team goaltender Ashlyn Harris, this meant some sweet new kicks.
@Ashlyn_Harris you always get the really cool presents!!!!!— Alex Morgan (@alexmorgan13) August 10, 2015
Road To Rio
The nation's top gymnasts are in Indianapolis this week, competing at the P&G Gymnastics Championships. Aly Raisman, see anyone familiar?
Oh haayyyy pic.twitter.com/10IM7okKxX— Alexandra Raisman (@Aly_Raisman) August 12, 2015
Rehab, A Way Of Life
Olympic gymnast John Orozco, meanwhile, is rehabbing from a torn Achilles tendon. It's a way of life for many Team USA athletes who so often are at some point on a road to recovery. Orozco, who lost his mother in February, is no stranger to injury, having torn his Achilles once before and an ACL in 2012.
Congratulations are also in order. Orozco has since graduated to riding a stationary bike.
Five-time Olympian Dara Torres is rehabbing, too, though not with her eye on Rio (unless you believed her April 1 "announcement"). This week, she had screws removed from her knee. A day later, she was working out:
Soon, alpine skiing star Lindsey Vonn will be rehabbing the ankle injury she sustained Thursday in New Zealand.
Humble appreciation aside, a gold medal really should get some time out of its case. And on what better occasion than an anniversary?
On Aug. 11, 2012, Francena McCorory won Olympic gold with DeeDee Trotter, Allyson Felix and Sanya Richards-Ross in the 4x400-meter. Looking back, McCorory recently had this to say of the fifth-fastest 4x400 relay in women's history: "I remember getting back to my room and crying like a baby! It was all so surreal!" On the occasion of the anniversary, she took what must have been a very gratifying look at gold.
Not Horsing Around
Olympic show jumper Reed Kessler, who likely became the youngest competitor in the history of her sport when she arrived in London at the age of 18, is probably tougher than you think.
How Much Is 170 Kg.?
The easy answer is that it's a crazy amount of weight to have on one's shoulders. In pounds, it's 374.49, and it was part of 2014 bobsled Olympian Jazmine Fenlator's recent workout.
170kilo x 2#bottomup #splitsquat rocking out in my #bluehaze @champion_usa workout gear! Slowing get back to where I need to be for the upcoming season #progress #repost via @surfvictorian I don't #workout alone. @jazminefenlator #singleleg #squats. @jazminefenlator #liftweights #bobsleigh #women #beastmode #gym #gympartner #instarepost20
Gone Too Soon
As the architect of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Team, Herb Brooks was a lead author in one of the greatest stories in American sports history. This past week marked the 12th anniversary of his passing. And gold medal-winning goalie Jim Craig, as conscientious a social media operator as there is, did not let it go by unnoticed.
Twelve years ago today we all lost a great mentor, coach, and friend. Rest in peace Herb. pic.twitter.com/KKpnl8mp0S— Jim Craig (@JimCraigUSA) August 11, 2015