By Jamie MacDonald | Sept. 09, 2016, 1:30 p.m. (ET)

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."


Opening Ceremony

First, we interrupt this program for a few important announcements …

By now, of course, the Paralympics are well underway and Team USA is already back to winning medals in Rio, but to replay the run-up to the Games is to see some of the most powerful moments of these athletes' lives through their own eyes.

Well, it's official, the countdown is over! Opening Ceremonies are here and day one of competition is tomorrow! Words cannot even begin to describe the emotions I have experienced today. This afternoon I got dressed with the rest of my teammates and realized here we are, 4 years later with another opportunity to show the world who we are as #TeamUSA Although I did not attend the Opening Ceremonies this evening because I race the 400 Free tomorrow, it was incredible putting that uniform on and realizing I am a member of one of the best teams in the world! This evening as I lay in bed and read through the scrap book of letters that were given to me from all my loved ones, friends and supporters I realize how incredibly fortunate I am. I know I say it in almost every post, but I truly mean it when I say I didn't get here alone. This book is filled with love and support from hundreds of people and I feel so incredibly blessed to have that much love in my life. For the next 10 days the fight continues, the fight to never give up, the fight to chase after my dreams fearlessly and the fight to defy the odds. I started back on this journey two years ago and didn't know if I would make it this far and here I am! So tomorrow morning, I will wheel onto the pool deck for my first race and I will be there for one purpose, because I absolutely love to swim. That is what these Games are about, my love for the sport, my love for the movement and my love for Team USA! #TeamUSA #rio2016 #RedefineLimitations

A photo posted by MalloryWeggemann (@malloryweggemann) on

Opening Ceremonies! Go #teamusa πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡ΈπŸŽ‰πŸ’ͺ🏻🏊🏻

A photo posted by Becca Meyers (@beccameyers20) on

Many were rooting from home, too.

Tonight marks the beginning of #rio2016πŸ‡§πŸ‡· #ParalympicGames with #OpeningCeremonies. To most people watching, the Paralympics is an event to watch athletes compete at the highest level. To the athletes, however, it is so much more. It is a chance to compete for yourself, your family, your friends, and your country. To show how hard you have worked in your sport. To validate the sacrifices that you, your family, and friends have made to help you acheive your dream. A chance to see a dream of winning a gold medal and hear your national anthem come to pass. The anticipation of Opening Ceremonies and the start of the games is indescribable. I, along with few others, have been blessed with the chance to not only compete in the Paralympics but win a #GoldMedal as well. It is a moment I will never forget. As #rio2016πŸ‡§πŸ‡· begins, I look back at #Sochi2014 and think what it took to get there and I certainly can relate to and appreciate what it took for each athlete in #Rio to get to where they are. Best of luck to all the #TeamUSA athletes competing in Rio! Bring home the #Gold! #USA @usparalympics

A photo posted by Dan McCoy (@mcsled14) on


Paralympic Precursor

Like the Olympians before them, Team USA's Paralympians have been generously sharing in chronicling their travels via social media. The village brims with photo ops, and discus athlete Natalie Bieule didn’t miss the opportunity to capture a memory with world-record holder April Holmes and Lacey Henderson.

Holmes had checked in from an elevated position earlier in the week:

Awesome view from my balcony in the village! #weHere

A photo posted by April Holmes (@aprilholmesusa) on

And it looks pretty good at night, too.

Prior to arriving in Rio, Henderson hinted that she’d be making the most of her experience:

processing wasn't very fun πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ

A video posted by Lacey Jai Henderson (@laceyisyourfriend) on

And what’s not to like about “processing,” an very official procedural word standing in for what might be considered by many to be one of the most rewarding days conceivable.

From nearly the moment athletes arrived in Rio, timelines picked up with the spirit of the red, white and blue …

@teamusa at the welcome ceremony in the Village.... we made it to @rio2016!!! #selfiewithmycountry @oakley @nike

A photo posted by Alana Nichols (@alanathejane) on

Couldn't ask for a better place to train #Rio2016

A photo posted by TatyanaMcfadden (@tatyanamcfaddenusa) on


Happy Ending, Only The Beginning

Months ago, we learned that a gold medal had been stolen from the car of Olympic champion kayaker Joe Jacobi. After an extensive search, the medal was found in a most unexpected way: by a young girl out for a walk with her dad. The medal is a little worse for the wear now, but the two subjects in what is unfolding as a pair separated by almost 40 years have been brought together. Jacobi and 7-year-old Chloe Smith have since shared a few paddles together on the Chattahoochee River outside Atlanta.


Far East Westbrook

Russell Westbrook, a basketball gold medalist with Team USA in London, has been a man on the move over the past week or so — with the Long Beach-born UCLA alum making his way back from the Far East, by way of the East Coast.

Tune in tonight @jimmyfallon on @nbc 11:35pm #nyfw #whynot

A photo posted by Russell Westbrook (@russwest44) on


Open Season

You know who’s having fun these days? Jenny Simpson. Though she earned bronze in the women’s 1,500-meter in Rio, she wasn’t done yet. She skipped across the pond to the Paris Diamond League event, then returned for one last race on the calendar: the 5th Avenue Mile in New York City. The result in what she referred to as her final mile of 2016: “Finished with a win, PR, and with the best competition & fans in the world!” So forgive her if she’s going on to enjoy herself a little in the Big Apple after winning her fifth 5th Avenue Mile.

Not on vacation at the US Open, however, were women’s tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams, who bowed out of the tournament in the semifinals on Thursday night in Queens.

#sisters #usopen #nyc @elevenbyvenus

A photo posted by Venus Williams (@venuswilliams) on


Summer Of Fun

The members of the Final Five, now almost a month removed from a dominating gymnastics performance in Rio, continues to enjoy their post-Games return to the States. Even Aly Raisman, who this week committed to pursuing a run at Tokyo in 2020, sneaked in quite a bit of fun.

Sorry Tom & Gisele... Hope you understand 😜

A photo posted by Alexandra Raisman (@alyraisman) on

Simone Biles, meanwhile, had an appointment for Fashion Week with gold-medal-winning swimmer Conor Dwyer, roughly 20 inches taller than the four-time Olympic gymnastics champion.

Found my fashion week date @simonebiles

A photo posted by Conor Dwyer (@conorjdwyer) on

Acrobatic twists on the first pitch theme rolled on, too:

Grateful I got to throw the first pitch at the NY Mets game today! (I'll just stay with gymnastics omgπŸ˜‚βšΎοΈ)

A video posted by Laurie Hernandez (@lauriehernandez_) on

Laurie Hernandez, who left Rio at the age of 16 with two medals, also offered a sneak peak at what’s to come on "Dancing with the Stars."

"Hey Frankie" pt.1 #teamvalaur #dwts @dancingabc @iamvalc

A video posted by Laurie Hernandez (@lauriehernandez_) on


National Nightmare Is Over

At long last, college football season has returned, much to the delight of so many proud Team USA alums.


Baby Corner

Matt Besler now has a solid entry for Best Team USA Birth Story. Besler, on the road with the men’s soccer team, didn’t quite have an easy way back home from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, so he decided to stay and play in Team USA’s game on Friday evening only hours after learning that his wife gave birth to their first child. And what a game it was. Besler scored in a 6-0 win before returning to the United States.

Parker Rhea Besler ❀️ Welcome to the 🌎

A photo posted by Matt Besler (@mattbesler) on

Rule: When you score a goal on the same day your wife gives birth, you get to celebrate however you like. Besler went with rocking the baby to sleep.

Since, he’s made it back, and he’ll play the part of a fan.

Besler is joined in parenthood this week by Olympic medalist fencer Tim Morehouse.

It has only been a few days but I can't imagine my life without them now....my little beautiful angels.

A photo posted by Tim Morehouse (@timmorehouse) on


That Time When …

… you were driving home and saw a billboard welcoming you back from the Olympic Games:


Cold Fusion

Even in North America, there are signs of fall:

Red!!!

A photo posted by Lindsey Van (@lindseyvan12) on

But, for Team USA’s winter athletes, training on snow requires a bit more travel. To Portillo, Chile, for example:

Enjoying a beautiful day off with my girl. This place is incredible! @vonndogs #goproselfie

A photo posted by Lindsey Vonn (@lindseyvonn) on

A few miles south, as the crow flies, Paralympic skier Tyler Walker:

Sometimes you luck out with amazing hotel room views. #vallenevado #Chile #skiracing

A photo posted by Tyler Walker (@tbone_walker) on

Or Argentina …

Bariloche to Las Lenas to Chapelco! Having so much fun in Argentina. #klassyadventures

A photo posted by @kaitlynfarr on

Just relaxing this morning before training. This view never gets old and I have taken about a million pics of it 😜

A photo posted by nickbaumgartner (@nickbaumgartner) on

The 14-hour flight to New Zealand seems worthwhile because, this …


We Are The World … Cup

Soon, believe it or not, the world’s best ice hockey players will be vying for the World Cup of Hockey, a two-week treat of international hockey before the NHL season begins in October. Prior to taking on Canada in a pre-event game on Friday, Team USA gathered for its official team photo in Columbus, Ohio.

Team photo day for #TeamUSA. 😁 πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ #WCH2016

A video posted by USA Hockey (@usahockey) on