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."
Headed To Rio
So much of what entangles our emotions in an Olympic story comes from an athlete's ability to navigate the successes and failures of an excruciatingly emotional quest to merely qualify for an Olympic Games. As the Rio Games horizon nears and qualifications increase in their frequency, we're seeing more of these stories unfold before our eyes. So many of them are also playing out on social media.
For Tervel Dlagnev, who finished fifth at the London Games, the journey back to the Olympics took its biggest leap this past weekend at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Iowa City, Iowa, with a win in the 125 kg. (275 pound) weight class. Gratitude filled his Twitter timeline afterward.
Thank you @DrTylerKelly for the literal hours you put in on working on me this weekend. Glad you are my friend!— Tervel Dlagnev (@TervelDlagnev) April 11, 2016
Jesse Thielke, who has not qualified for Rio but did win his weight class, had a big-time moment, too.
Dan gable smacked me in the back of my head while I was on my phone so I would look him in the eye when he shook my hand...LEGENDS NEVER DIE— Jesse David Thielke (@thielke_smooth) April 11, 2016
It was star Jordan Burroughs who authored one of the more ominous tweets. The Olympic gold medalist and three-time world champion dropped this on the eve of his matches, before a dominating effort:
My turn.— Jordan Burroughs (@alliseeisgold) April 10, 2016
Of course, this past weekend meant wins for a number of grateful wrestlers, including a favorite to medal in Rio in Adeline Gray at 75 kg. (165 pounds). Gray, who extended a winning streak to nearly 40 matches, has already turned her attention to training for Rio:
The #RoadtoRio is in full swing! The main thing I'm doing is eating more steak to get use to how much red meat there is in the diet in #Brazil thanks @modmarket for the yummy steak salad! #olympian #teamusa #steaksalad #medalsandsalad #graytogold I also had fun at the photoshoot! #dreambigprincess #smile
'The Best Routine Ever'
At the recently concluded Pacific Rim Gymnastics Championships, Team USA walked away from the Everett, Washington, event with a staggering 21 medals in the artistic gymnastics events alone, one of which came by way of the impressive balance beam routine that landed Rio multi-medal favorite Simone Biles a score of 15.55. If you listen closely to the audio of the high-difficulty finish, you can hear Olympic gold medalist gymnast Nastia Liukin's extremely high praise for the routine.
Biles, who finished first in the vault and floor routine, too, during the all-around, posted a celebratory pic along with her teammates — who just happened to sweep the meet's top five spots.
2016 | Pac Rim Banquet | Team USA pic.twitter.com/h7ylIEUnkg— Simone Biles (@Simone_Biles) April 12, 2016
The Team USA men also shined, winning all six golds and adding four silver medals in six event finals, but Jake Dalton (gold in the floor exercise) and John Orozco (gold on high bar) have already moved on. They send their greetings from a test event in Rio.
Yes, it's nice outside, too ...
One of the most physically gifted athletes in the world, 6-foot-5, 245-pound Panthers quarterback Cam Newton tried his hand this past week at water polo. And, if you read his posted comment that was liked more than 85,000 times, he might have a point.
Maggie Steffens, however, wonders he's ready for Rio. We think she's joking.
Stockwell's Triumph Over Tragedy
It may not get much cuter then the son of 2008 Paralympian and 2016 Paralympic hopeful Melissa Stockwell, who is also a Purple Heart and bronze star recipient.
Four days later, Stockwell, who lost her leg to a roadside bomb in Iraq more than a decade ago, posted a powerful message to honor the anniversary.
Noted racing fan (and computer nerd) Tyler Clary, understandably, requires a gaming setup with some horsepower. The Olympic gold medalist and Rio hopeful swimmer went out for a spin this past week on an exercise in cross-training ...
... only to wind up hearing from a couple of pros in the peanut gallery. INDYCAR drivers Scott Dixon and Oriol Servia even had a little fun at Clary's expense.
"A little Sonoma?" Dixon asked.
Added Servia: "be careful with @tylerclary, be brakes later than our beloved @tagliani18!!!"
Dixon: "@oriolservia @tylerclary @tagliani18 haha that's hilarious!! Brave man!"
Clary's response: "Hey hey, depth perception is tough without real life IndyCar experience like you guys have! I'm just happy to have kept it on the track...for the most part... @oriolservia @scottdixon9 @tagliani18"
Perhaps Dixon and Servia would appreciate a few tips on their swimming. Clary, incidentally, can be found this week in Mesa, Arizona, for the 2016 Arena Pro SwimPro Series meet.
Two of Team USA's star swimmers, Conor Dwyer and Katie Ledecky, shared a quick high-five before heading south to Mesa.
On Thursday, both athletes won their 200-meter freestyle finals.
'The Hills' Are Alive
When Olympic gold medalist snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg wasn't managing his jet lag or cruising pow or hiking powdery inclines in stunning Switzerland, he was finding some time to chill in the wintery wonderland.
Chilling in Switzerland watching The Hills pic.twitter.com/WbZTCI8Zeb— sage kotsenburg (@sagekotsenburg) April 13, 2016
The storied basketball career of two-time Olympian and basketball legend Kobe Bryant is now over, complete with a 60-point swan song in his grand Wednesday night finale. Kobe and #MambaDay were worldwide trending Twitter topics throughout most of the night, while #ThankYouKobe and #MambaOut trended No. 1 on Twitter in the aftermath.
Prior to Bryant's farewell, he was given a proper, moving sendoff by friends and foes alike. Team USA water polo player and Newport Beach native Kaleigh Gilchrist called it a "Pretty epic video!" Well put.
Gilchrist, by the way, is no casual fan of Bryant's. To wit:
Another Farewell, Of Sorts
In a way, world and Olympic champion Kayla Harrison offers an emotional goodbye, too.
Won my 9th national title today here in Dallas. I must say it was a very emotional moment walking off that mat for what will most likely be the last time on US soil. I want to thank every single person who has been a part of this journey. It's been a long road from that young girl with a big dream when I stepped on the mat all those years ago, and without so many people it would have never been possible. Now begins the final push to Rio and I am so excited and proud to be going in Representing the greatest country on earth. Come August 11th, I will leave it all out there and do my best to make you all proud. Thank you for the memories. Thank you for allowing me to chase my dreams. And most of all, thank you for believing in me. Because of all of you, I will not fail.
Coming to a headset near you, four-time Olympic champion Sanya Richards-Ross:
Just Plane Mean
Former Olympic tennis star Andy Roddick is a relatively new father, which means a spare moment without a direct parental responsibility may very well lead to a nap. And, apparently, you don't want to be napping on a plane around Mardy Fish.
Roddick's loving wife offered this response:
Aly Dudek Can't Stop Flexing
And, with arms like these, who could blame the Olympic short track speedskater?
#NationalPetDay vs. #NationalSiblingDay
The internet has many uses. And when it comes to social media, some great shares come from the proliferation of social media holidays — also known as picture days. This past week, for instance, we had both #nationalpetday and #nationalsiblingday. Here are a few favorites from each:
Happy#SiblingDay@StevenLopezTkd @marklopeztkd@dianalopez25.I am so blessed 2 have you in my life.I love all of you! pic.twitter.com/W00iEtlwVC— Jean Lopez (@LopezTKDAcademy) April 10, 2016
Courtesy the Shib Sibs, take a look at the star power lined up in Hershey, Pennsylvania. There is a lot of hardware between this group.
Remember the name: Michal Smolen. The young kayaker proved himself to be among this country's best in the run-up to London, winning the U.S. trials as a 17-year-old, only to see his Olympic dreams fade. Born in Poland, Smolen, who grew up mostly in North Carolina, wasn't able to acquire his United States citizenship in time to row for Team USA in London. But he's back. And he looks good in red, white and blue.
Officially going to the #Rio2016 Olympic Games!!!— 〽️ichal Smolen (@michalsmolen) April 10, 2016
Dreams do come true. It may take a while longer than you expect but if you keep pushing, you are unstoppable! pic.twitter.com/PeaKY84NAV— 〽️ichal Smolen (@michalsmolen) April 12, 2016