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."
There is a miraculous quality to a legend. They're uncommon. They're memorable. They leave indelible wrinkles in time. In the case of Pat Summitt, her miracles meant directly inspiring hundreds and indirectly inspiring thousands, maybe millions. Summitt wanted your best, and she often saw more in you than you thought you had. And she was going to try to get you there. Uniquely and almost supernaturally intense, she intimidated, she cajoled, she coached. She led.
To be in the presence of Pat Summitt was often to be in her presence, to have your space set upon by a force of nature. When she left a room, visitors were left with their own indelible wrinkles in time. They would remember that visit. They were left with a lasting memory. A miracle.
Earlier this week, Summitt, the coaching force of nature, passed away at the age of 64. As an Olympian, she won a silver in Montreal while serving as a co-captain of the first U.S. Olympic Women's Basketball Team. She also helped inspired another legend in Nancy Lieberman (Google "Nancy Lieberman pays tribute to Olympic teammate Pat Summitt" for that story). As a coach, Summitt won gold at the Los Angeles Games, and she coached 14 Olympic team members during her tenure at Tennessee — the program that under her watch helped change the world for women's basketball, if not for female athletes, forever. And from which each of Summitt's players graduated.
So many of them shared heartfelt thoughts, from those she mentored to those who went on to become household names in the sport ...
My heart is heavy. There are no words to describe the feeling of this loss. My coach, my friend, my mentor ... Gone way too soon. Even with the heartache, I will find peace that she is no longer battling such an ugly disease. I will forever remember the moment standing by her bedside saying my final good-bye. I kissed her on the cheek and told her how thankful and grateful I was to have her in my life for so long. I reminded her how much I loved her even though she gave me hell as a player (out of love). One of the things that I promised was to continue the Lady Vol legacy like she has instilled in each and everyone one of us in the Lady Vol program. It became so clear to me what Coach Summitt wanted from us the other day. One of Coach Summitt's last years on the road recruiting, she treated a group of her former players in coaching to dinner. We insisted she didn't have to pay but of course she always did. She then looked at us with those big blue eyes and said, "how you all will repay me is to continue the sisterhood of this program and the legacy of the Lady Vols long after I'm gone." To my Lady Vol sisters, we will do just that. We are a select few chosen ones that had the honor to wear ORANGE. Coach, THANK YOU for being you. THANK YOU for making me the woman that I am today. THANK YOU for instilling in me a work ethic and mental toughness to succeed against all odds. The gift that you have given me - I pray that I can do the same for the players and people that I touch. Until I see you again.... With fierce courage we will keep on keepin' on!!! I LOVE YOU. P.S. - As you dance your way into heaven, I will keep the wonderful memory of you dancing at our wedding with your shoes off and a big smile. You deserve everything that you will receive when God opens up the gates to heaven. For you have done a job well done here on earth. 🙏🏾
Two-time Olympic men's gold medalist Dwyane Wade also shared a thoughtful message about the lesson of leaving a lasting impression ...
RIP to the great Pat Summit..We lost a great one but we gained so much in her time here. Make your dash count!— DWade (@DwyaneWade) June 28, 2016
Emotional Gymnastics Trials Conclude
This past week set up as one of the 2016 calendar year's most compelling as it related to Olympic qualifying, with a tightly-packed itinerary of men's gymnastics events that had many Team USA fans on the edge of their seats — and not only for the events. Within minutes of the final rotation, USA Gymnastics officials met on the tall task of selecting the athletes who would make it to Rio.
This fact, of course, was not lost on Olympian Jake Dalton.
Big day tomorrow! Time to get some rest 🇺🇸 #StLouis2016— Jake Dalton (@jake_dalton) June 25, 2016
... Or teammate Sam Mikulak.
If you watched the coverage, you saw so many successes under pressure, and those are well-chronicled. While those Team USA officials disappeared to deliberate, so many waited on the edge of their seats, both in the arena and in front of the television sets.
The suspense......— Chellsie Memmel (@CMemmel) June 26, 2016
This is insane!!! Who's it going to be..... #mensolympictrials— Alexandra Raisman (@Aly_Raisman) June 26, 2016
When the team was announced, congratulations were in order for Dalton, Mikulak, Chris Brooks, Alex Naddour and John Orozco.
Afterward, emotions finally let loose, particularly for Orozco and the fans who know his story. In 2015, Orozco lost his mother and also suffered a torn Achilles, making his Olympic dream that much more emotional. Hugs and tears and an outpouring of celebration from both on the floor and in the stands overwhelmed many, including in the broadcast booth, where Nastia Liukin fought back tears as Orozco said, "If you hear me, mom, I love you."
Olympic gold medalist Raisman, also in St. Louis for the P&G Championships, was also caught up in the emotion.
Soon, their attention turned to what's on the horizon.
It's been fun St. Louis... But it's time to go home! #Back2Work ✌🏼️— Jake Dalton (@jake_dalton) June 26, 2016
The Comeback And The Wink
Raisman also figured prominently in St. Louis, where the two-time Olympic champion finished second at the P&G Championships — a feat made that much more impressive by the fact she took more than a year off after winning gold in London. Her story becomes that much more compelling as the women head to their own Olympic Trials in San Jose, California.
Fellow Olympic gymnastics champion Shawn Johnson wasn't shy in her rooting for Raisman.
As has been the case lately, though, if Simone Biles is in the building, the race does seem to be for second. Biles, the multi-medal threat in Rio, finished first at the P&G Championships, well ahead of the competition with an array of expertly-executed events and thrilling performances on the balance beam and floor exercise. In fact, during one of her tumbling runs on the floor, she sneaked in a wink to Johnson. Yes, in the middle of one of the world's most difficult floor routines.
Biles' all-around title became her fourth in a row, which had only been completed twice before, but not since the early '70s. By the end of the week, though, she was back in the gym and training in advance of the San Jose meet.
Not only is Michael Phelps a new dad, but he also has a few more reasons to celebrate: his birthday this week, and he's going to Rio, thanks to his performances this week at U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Swimming in Omaha, Nebraska. For his efforts, he found a prime location to sign his name on The Flip-Flop.
This makes an astounding five Olympic teams for Phelps, and the significance is clearly special after all these years.
Missy Returns, Too
While Missy Franklin admitted before locking up a spot on the Rio roster that she was just hoping to make the team, the five-time Olympic medalist did earn a spot by way of her 200-meter backstroke. Still, her gratitude remains solidly intact.
In Omaha, fractions of seconds were the difference between achieving a lifelong goal of reaching Rio or having to swallow the fact their Olympic dreams would not be coming true. The process becomes so humanizing as we remember these are, in some cases, moms and dads, sons and daughters and siblings with friends across the country and hometowns pulling for them.
One event in particular offered a glimpse into exactly this for Lilly King and Katie Meili, who finished 1-2 in the 100 breaststroke to secure a spot on the Rio roster. Both are first-time Olympians. And both had folks from home making the effort to send positive thoughts to Omaha.
The Next Trial
Athletes' words in post-race interviews come with the added bonus of a raw, in-the-moment spontaneity, even if they occasionally lack poignance or a main line to a bigger picture. Social media posts often come with the added bonus of thought, reflection and deeper context. On the eve of the U.S. Track & Field Olympic Trials, sprinting star Allyson Felix, who is a legitimate threat to win gold at two different distances in Rio, brought you just about as close to her pre-meet emotional state as any athlete could.
This year has been a tough one. An accident in the gym turned my preparation upside down. The journey has been hard. Pain. Frustration. Tears. Anger. Uncertainty. I've poured myself into an endless amount of rehab, therapy and treatment. ONLY by the grace of God I will walk to the starting line tomorrow. Undoubtedly, this will be the hardest team I try to make. I refuse to give up on my dreams. I'm a fighter and tomorrow one of my biggest fights begins. #TrackTown16
Her brother also offers a unique perspective on one of the fastest women in the world.
Beach volleyball Olympian Phil Dalhausser has been a busy man this summer, as one might imagine this time of year for his sport, but he had a rare bit of downtime in his schedule for a date night. And when you're checking in at 6-foot-9, even shaving presents a challenge.
Paratriathlete Amy Dixon, along with her guide dog, had some fantastic seats for Team USA's 11-6 win over Hungary in Connecticut.
As part of a three-game series, Hungary and Team USA took things outside for a unique practice at the New York Athletic Club's Travers Island pool.
Winter Is Here
Summer isn't for everyone. For some, the search for snow is always a worthwhile one. Congratulations, Travis Ganong, for finding a place to shred. Will the Team USA Olympic downhiller carve some turns over the July 4 holiday weekend?
Sneak peak today, June 24th, of the 4th of July Chutes! Tahoe summer skiing is still firing! So fun to mix it up and to still be making some quality turns this late in the season... who is going to make it up here for the 4th? #independenceday #weareskiing @atomicski @icebreaker_us @girosnow @lekiusa @highsierra_usa @squawalpine @clifbarcompany @usskiteam @americandownhiller
USA Basketball kicked off the week with a big-time announcement, naming its squat for Rio. London Olympian Kevin Durant, who at the time was only a few days from a very high-profile free-agent wooing period, chimed in with a few words of Team USA gratitude.
Paralympic star Lex Gillette has skills. Lots of skills. At a school appearance a few months ago, Gillette kicked a soccer ball around with a student, threw a football with another, and he showed off a pretty sweet handle on the basketball court. Now, he's taking on pitching ...
Thanks bro! Hearing the ball hit your glove made my day. And way to storm back for the W in that first game! https://t.co/kWR3ossKAp— Lex Gillette (@LexGillette) June 29, 2016
Big bro went out there and threw it right up the middle! Bruh you are the man lol https://t.co/y7Ixem7wM9— illWill (@WilliamClaye) June 29, 2016
Thanks bro! I couldn't go out there looking like Snoop Dogg or 50¢. https://t.co/ZLYQyBsqMq— Lex Gillette (@LexGillette) June 29, 2016
Congratulations are in order for Skylar Diggins, who played for Team USA at the 2012 Worlds and suffered a torn ACL in 2015, on the publishing of her new book.
Alpine skiing star Lindsey Vonn is getting into the act, too.
Run For Fun
For Olympic bronze medalist distance runner Shalane Flanagan, this past week has been among the best one could imagine. And it started with a shoutout from a Boston icon.
Well, things could hardly have gone better from there.
"Seek a calling. Even if you don't know what that means, seek it. If you're following your calling, the fatigue will be easier to bear, the disappointments will be fuel, the highs will be like nothing you've ever felt."- Phil Knight Hip hip hooray for my new favorite motivational quote, an American record at 10k 30:52, a win in my hometown of Boston, our health, my sponsors @nike @team_hotshot, my team @bowermantc and family, and the lovely lady I get to do it all with @hastyhastings!!!! 🇺🇸🇺🇸 Thank you @BAA and city of Boston for a most memorable day. I will treasure forever.
Followed by a touching — and funny — shoutout of her own ...
My dad. The biggest kid I know. Goofing around post BAA 10k race(he was probably trying to figure out how many beers could fit in the trophy😉). He thoughtfully brought his bike to accompany me for my hour long cool down. It wasn't long ago he would run with me, but his little girl has gotten a lil bit quicker. I feel like the luckiest girl to have so much love and support from my family. #Flanaganfam #Irishlovebeer #daddysgirl #bostonstrong @BAA #dreamteam
What a time of year this is. After a week that saw so many Olympic dreams come true, this coming week will mean even more, including with the U.S. Paralympic Team Trials For Track & Field and U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Track and Field. Those thoughts are clearly with Team USA athletes — even those whose dreams fell just short.
When I started bobsled, I made a promise to return to the track and to finish my track career out on my terms. I was fortunate to be able to do just that and enjoy the challenge. Although I did not make it into the 2016 Olympic Trials for the decathlon and couldn't better my score from last year, I still ended up one spot away from making the cut. Now, I’m excited to fully embrace the sport of bobsled and give it everything I have! #tothenextstep #nomore1500s #lovewhatyoudo