What are Team USA athletes — Olympians, Paralympians, hopefuls and more — 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 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."
Let The Retirement Party Begin
One of the most driven and stubbornly driven athletes has decided to call it a career. Earlier this week, two-time Olympic gold medalist Kobe Bryant announced his retirement in an understated posting on an athlete news site. Even after the announcement that this will mark Bryant's final NBA season, there remains a chance he might participate in the Rio Games. But, for now, his message to the game of basketball is: "I'm ready to let you go." More than 120,000 Twitter likes followed the 37-year-old star's announcement on Twitter, along with kudos from Team USA athletes near and far.
Thank you @kobebryant for 20 years of EXCELLENCE!! I remember when you were just a puppy and Arn (Tellem) had me call you, my #Pacers had just finished losing a TOUGH 7 game series to that #BlackCat Michael Jordan led #Bulls team, I was explaining to you how difficult it was in trying to guard him. I remember so vividly your response and how prophetic it was, "Well the #CaramelCat is going to be just as tough".. Very true my friend.. So #BlackMamba, please enjoy these next 4 months, please allow the fans to serenade you, as hard as it may be for you, ALLOW it.. The early morning workouts, the late night trips to the weight room were all worth it, sit back and EXHALE!! As you leave your only responsibility is to make sure @dloading, @jclark5on and @juliusrandle30 have that same burning fire🔥🔥🔥you always played with.. So as we embraced last night I hope you felt the respect, honor and privilege it was to face you twice a year. I absolutely LOVED it, now enjoy the #LoveFest Caramel Cat.. #VirgosStickTogether
Saying goodbye his way! Salute Kob🙏🏾❤️ https://t.co/olg1Y8NMq4— Swin Cash (@SwinCash) November 30, 2015
November 30, 2015
Thank you @kobebryant !!! #legend #MVP4LIFE #LONDON2012 pic.twitter.com/2vCs7Q0pLY— Manuel Huerta (@trimanny) November 30, 2015
Physics With Evan Lysacek
Olympic figure skater Polina Edmunds noticed a familiar face while studying physics recently: Olympic champion Evan Lysacek.
Hey @EvanLysacek! You're in my Physics textbook! 📚⛸ Hahaha pic.twitter.com/MwzM19ftjX— Polina Edmunds (@PolinaEdmunds) November 29, 2015
The are entrances, and there are entrances. Simone Biles, a multi-medal favorite for the upcoming Rio Games, proved she knows her way around (and around, and around) the latter.
What an entrance, @Simone_Biles! 🏅🏅🏅 #TexansGameday pic.twitter.com/qjhXXGxMa0— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) November 29, 2015
Biles' day at an NFL game entailed much more than a few quick flips, however. In addition to taking her family along and posing for pics with cheerleaders, arguably the best gymnast in the world met arguably the best defensive football player in the world, J.J. Watt.
when you met @JJWatt after your interview but it startles you😂🏈💙 GO TEXANS!!! pic.twitter.com/CBdU64scHh— Simone Biles (@Simone_Biles) November 29, 2015
Shiffrin's Picking Up Speed (And Records)
One of the more compelling stories to follow this winter will be something more closely resembling a head-to-head competition between two of the best skiers in the world, legend Lindsey Vonn and 20-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin. As Shiffrin, the Olympic slalom champion, has broadened her impressive skill set to include speed events, her shot at a world cup globe appears realistic.
This past weekend, Vonn only skied the giant slalom in Aspen, Colorado, and both she and Shiffrin crashed in the event. But Shiffrin came back to make history over the next two days, beating the field both days, in a slalom, no less, including a win by 3.07 seconds Saturday and one by 2.65 seconds on Sunday despite faltering out of the gate. The speed is impressive:
Also impressive is the way the two are handling the budding rivalry. Shiffrin said this past week that she knows the world cup throne will not be handed to her, but she also isn't willing to give her shot at it away, either.
For her part, Vonn's response to Shiffrin's weekend slalom dominance couldn't have struck a finer note.
Way to crush it @MikaelaShiffrin!— lindsey vonn (@lindseyvonn) November 28, 2015
And if you're wondering what makes Shiffrin faster than ever, take a look at TeamUSA.org's 6 Reasons Mikaela Shiffrin Is So Fast.
Angel Investor For Schaaf
Olympic bobsledding friends Aja Evans and Bree Schaaf faced off in a friendly Women's Sports Foundation fundraising competition where everyone won, though Schaaf eventually overtook Evans down the stretch, thanks to some good fortune.
Most amazing thing happened! An anonymous donor pushed me past my fundraising goal!! Bless you whoever you are! @WomensSportsFdn #WSFFaceOff— Bree Schaaf (@BreeSchaaf) November 29, 2015
Not long after reaching her goal, Schaaf turned her attention to helping her former teammate across the finish line.
Someone can surely spare $5(or more!)2help @AjaLEvans reach her @WomensSportsFdn #WSFFaceOff goal! @USBSF @USOlympic https://t.co/cQEqRWTBEp— Bree Schaaf (@BreeSchaaf) December 1, 2015
Franklin Gifts $10K
Speaking of investments, #GivingTuesday did not go unnoticed by Team USA athletes, with many posting encouraging messages to give, including water polo star Maggie Steffens, Olympic snowboarder Elena Hight and Olympic figure skater Ashley Wagner.
Olympic swimming star Missy Franklin also contributed significantly to the cause.
Celebrating #GivingTuesday by giving back to a sport that’s given so much to me - making a $10k gift with @SpeedoUSA to @SwimFoundation— Missy Franklin (@missyfranklin) December 1, 2015
Thursday marked International Day of People with Disabilities, a day that coincided with a U.S. Paralympics media tour on the Road to Rio, featuring 12-time Paralympic gold medalist Jessica Long, multiple-distance world-record holder Richard Browne and 11-time Paralympic medalist Tatyana McFadden.
So fun being on @SInow with these incredible athletes as we gear up for Rio. @USParalympics pic.twitter.com/JMLG6RilAH— Jessica Long (@JessicaLong) December 3, 2015
McFadden, not far removed from yet another wheelchair marathon win, meanwhile, wound up in a priceless shot:
Thanks @PlayersTribune for having me today 😊😊😊 pic.twitter.com/hmR3FnGufc— Tatyana McFadden (@TatyanaMcFadden) December 3, 2015
As holiday card season ramps up, here's a perfect picture option for 1996 Olympic gold medalist Dominique Moceanu:
What does retirement look like for soccer great Abby Wambach? One one day this past week, it looked a little like frosting.
Remember The Name
On Thursday, USA Hockey named a 17-player roster that will serve as the 2016 U.S. Youth Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Team set to compete this coming February atthe 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway. Hockey fans will recognize the last names of a number of players whose fathers are either coaches or former NHL players, but only one player can claim to have been an Internet sensation at the age of 9, thanks to a tricky goal he'd scored on the home ice of the Boston Bruins in 2009.
Maine native Oliver Wahlstrom gained his measure of fame with a twisting, spinning goal rarely executed by adults, let alone youth players, and the shot quickly went viral. The goal has viewed millions of times in a number YouTube channels, and it made Wahlstrom a bit of a star.
A Good Luck Sign?
Olympic silver medalist Haley Anderson, who qualified for Rio by way of a top-10 finish in the women's 10K race at the FINA World Championships in Russia, sure has an optimistic take on being pulled over.
Got a speeding ticket on my way to #ATTNats hopefully that means I got some fast swims in me too— Haley Anderson (@SwimHaley) December 3, 2015