We know it’s hard to remember all the times Team USA Olympians, Paralympians and hopefuls dominated the headlines in 2015, so here is a look back at 15 of the year’s biggest stories as they happened.
1. Avalanche Kills Two U.S. Ski Team Members
The year started off with sad news when two members of the U.S. Ski Team were killed while skiing near their European training base in the Austrian Alps. Olympic hopefuls Bryce Astle, 19, and Ronnie Berlack, 20, were with a group of six skiers set to compete in the alpine world championships just weeks later when an avalanche tragically cut their lives and competitive careers short.
2. Nastia Liukin Joins The Cast Of “Dancing With The Stars”
In February, it was announced that gymnast Nastia Liukin would compete on the 20th season of the hit show, partnering with professional dancer Derek Hough. The two would make it all the way to the semifinals. But the 2008 Olympic individual all-around champion wasn’t the only Team USA athlete to make it onto reality TV this year: bobsledder Steve Langton and his girlfriend, speedskater Aly Dudek teamed up on “The Amazing Race,” two-time Olympic gymnastics medalist Jonathan Horton, at 5-1, became the shortest man to ever make it to the top of the warped wall when he appeared on “American Ninja Warrior”; and retired speedskater Allison Baver made her second appearance on dating show “The Millionaire Matchmaker” in the hopes of getting approval for her boyfriend, who ultimately proposed at the end of the show.
3. Bruce Jenner Transitions Into Caitlyn Jenner
In a “20/20” interview with Diane Sawyer in April, Bruce Jenner revealed he had undergone cosmetic surgery and was taking steps to fully transition into a woman. Three months later, the Olympic decathlon gold medalist showed off her new look on the cover of “Vanity Fair” with the caption “Call me Caitlyn.” Barbara Walters would later name Caitlyn as the most fascinating person of 2015 on her annual TV special.
4. Olympic Sailor Trevor Moore Goes Missing At Sea
In June, friends and family, along with the Coast Guard, searched for 30-year-old Olympic sailor Trevor Moore when the boat he had gone out on near Miami was found adrift with his personal belongings still inside. A week went by with sadly no signs of the 2012 Olympian and the search was called off.
5. The U.S. Wins The Women’s World Cup
As if winning the Women’s World Cup wasn’t exciting enough, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team followed up its victory with a ticker-tape parade in New York City, the first-ever for a women’s sports team. The women also appeared onstage — along with their World Cup trophy — beside Taylor Swift at her concert in New Jersey and made a visit to the White House where they met with President Barack Obama. In a press conference, Obama said that the team “taught all of America’s children that ‘playing like a girl’ means you’re a badass!”
6. Amy Purdy Marries Her Co-partner In Adaptive Action Sports
Paralympic snowboarding bronze medalist Amy Purdy married her longtime love Daniel Gale in front of 160 of their closest friends and family, which included former fellow “Dancing with the Stars” contestant Wynonna Judd, who performed at the Idaho reception. Olympic ice dance champion Charlie White (also a DWTS contestant) also tied the knot this year to fellow Olympic ice dance medalist Tanith Belbin, whom he met 17 years earlier. And gymnasts Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson were among the Olympians who had significant others get down on one knee in 2015.
7. Lamar Odom Hospitalized After Being Found Unconscious
Former NBA player Lamar Odom was found unconscious and spent three days in a coma after overdosing on drugs. While he is no longer on a respirator, the Olympic bronze medalist is still on the road to recovery since first landing in the hospital in mid-October.
8. Gus Kenworthy Announces He Is Gay
Keeping a secret for most of his life, Olympic silver medalist Gus Kenworthy revealed to “ESPN The Magazine” that he was gay. As the first action-sports star to come out, the freeskier admitted he was nervous about what type of feedback he was going to get when the news broke, but in the end was “blown away by the amount of love and support” he received.
9. Simone Biles Wins Third World All-Around Title
The 18-year-old gymnast, who is the frontrunner for next year’s Rio Olympics, won a record 10th world championship gold medal. This makes three all-around world gymnastics titles she has won in a row — a record. Biles placed ahead of two-time Olympic champion Gabby Douglas and has been called the best gymnast on the planet.
10. Serena Williams Chases Down A Man Who Tried To Steal Her Phone
Thanks to what she called her “superhero sense,” this year’s Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year chased down a man who stole her phone while she was eating in a restaurant. Williams — who won the four majors of tennis in a row between 2014 and 2015, aka a “Serena Slam” — ultimately got the phone back (after the thief chalked it up to an accident). But she advised her female followers on Facebook to “step up to any challenge and not be a victim, but a hero.”
11. Lindsey Vonn Breaks Up A Fight Between Her Dogs, Ends Up In Hospital
A week after Halloween, the ski racer — who recently celebrated her 71st World Cup win — tried to break up her dogs who were fighting over a Frisbee and ended up needing stitches. Vonn joked that her bandaged look was a belated Jimmy Fallon Halloween costume in honor of “The Tonight Show” host who tripped and cut his hand on a bottle the week before Halloween.
12. Michael Phelps Announces He Is Going To Be A Father
Nine months after proposing to longtime love, Miss California USA 2010 Nicole Johnson, the 22-time Olympic medalist swimmer posted a picture of him and his fiancée posing with a tiny swimsuit. The caption read, “We found out 8 weeks ago we were expecting… Today we’re over 12 weeks and it looks like we’re having a boy!!!”
13. Ronda Rousey Loses For The First Time In Her MMA Career
The first U.S. woman to earn an Olympic medal in judo — who made the move to mixed martial arts in 2010 — lost a fight for the first time in her MMA career this past November. Despite being a heavy favorite — and boasting impressive 14- and 34-second wins earlier this year — the Olympic judoka lost to fellow American Holly Holm by a knockout in the second round in just under a minute; this was only the second time someone had lasted past the first round in a ring with her. Despite being knocked unconscious, Rousey still made good on her promise to attend the Marine Corps Ball after an invite from Lance Cpl. Jarrod Haschert months earlier.
14. Kobe Bryant Announces This Will Be His Last Season In The NBA
After 20 years in the game — and only playing for one NBA team — LA Lakers star Kobe Bryant announced he will end his basketball career at the end of this season. The two-time Olympic gold medalist wrote in a letter to his fans, “What you’ve done for me is far greater than anything I’ve done for you.” Fortunately for Team USA, Bryant is still in the conversation for a coveted spot on the 2016 Olympic team.
15. Abby Wambach Retires
One of the world’s greatest players, Abby Wambach, played her final soccer game with the U.S. Women’s National Team on Dec. 16. This capped a career that spanned 15 years for the two-time Olympic gold medalist, who with 184 goals is the all-time leading scorer – male or female – in the history of international soccer. Nine of those goals came in her 11 Olympic matches.