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Red, White & Trending: Dec. 30-Jan. 5

By Jamie MacDonald | Jan. 06, 2017, 8:13 p.m. (ET)

What are Team USA athletes — Olympians, Paralympians and hopefuls — 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."

The Year 2017

The year 2016 left scars in so many ways, particularly among the entertainers and athletes we lost, but it was also an Olympic and Paralympic year. Which means the success stories that began so many years ago in so many ways finally paid off — merely with a walk in the Opening Ceremony. And, of course, for a great number of athletes, their Rio experience provided not only memories, but also an affirmation of the lives they set aside to train for the Games.

Carli Lloyd, for instance, coming off a FIFA Player of the Year performance in 2015, made her third Olympic appearance and scored 15 international goals overall to inch within six of 100 in her career. And, oh-by-the-way, Lloyd also married her high school sweetheart in November. So you’ll have to forgive her for marching, rather than moping, into 2017.

Mic drop.

Kicking Off 2017 Right

Olympians and Paralympians lead atypical lives. They live lives of discipline. They sacrifice “normal days” for physical exhaustion and training in relative obscurity on days when many of us skip the gym. They persevere in the face of long odds and longer days. There are goals and there are schedules. So it should come as little surprise that even those who are no longer training still mare the turning of the calendar’s last page as a milestone.

Hard to top three-time water polo Olympian Merrill Moses’ start to the year …

More beach chronicles, with Olympic medalist swimmer Jessica Hardy …

For Olympic champion swimmer Summer Sanders, winter is never far away from her home with husband and three-time Olympic ski racer Erik Schlopy …

First #family #ski day of #2017 and it was a good one! #happynewyear @deervalleyresort #skithedifference

A photo posted by Summer Sanders (@summersanders_) on

Fellow Olympic champion swimmer Brendan Hansen fully embraced winter, too …

Polar Bear Barton Springs plunge #2017

A video posted by Brendan Hansen (@brendanhansen12) on

Olympic judo champion Kayla Harrison, whose year included defense of Olympic gold in Rio, found a spot outside the ring during the World Series of Fighting at Madison Square Garden, along with a combination of gratitude and optimism …

It’s all downhill from here for four-time Olympic cyclist and Rio silver medalist Sarah Hammer …

Happy New Year!! Nice way to start 2017 with this bunch. πŸŽ‰πŸŽŠ

A photo posted by Sarah Hammer (@sarah_k_hammer) on

Puns are welcome here, Mariel Zagunis …

Olympic ice dance champion Meryl Davis is a Jan. 1 baby who this year turned 30, and the milestone brought with it a flood of earnest emotions …

I very distinctly remember crying on my 13th birthday. While so many of my peers eagerly anticipated the excitement of those teenage years and the freedom of their 20s, I feared the loss of what could only be described as the most magical existence & childhood imaginable: the safety & security of my amazing family, sun kissed summers on the beach by our house & praying for snow days all winter long so that my brother and I could build igloos in our backyard for hours before being called inside for hot chocolate. One of those too good to be true realities. That WAS my reality and I knew I was lucky. I knew other kids weren't so fortunate and I knew adulthood wouldn't be so simple...even at 13, I wanted to cling to the life I realized was an anomaly in a big world of potentially less appealing possibilities. Of course, I was right. Surely, now just a few days after my 30th birthday, I know I was right. Adulthood is so much more complicated...SO much harder. I've faced challenges I never expected, heartbreak and loss...moments my little 13-year-old heart couldn't have imagined. BUT the beauty of reflection is that I can open my heart to that moment on January 1st, 2000 and say I've lived my best life since. Seventeen years of mistakes, surprises, and less than perfect moments later, yet I'm even more blessed than I was then. The love I have for the people in my life is deeper, richer and so much more meaningful. The ferocity with which I desire to experience life and see the world is bolder. The gratitude I have for my blessings is broader. ❀️ I wish everyone a 2017 filled with love, kindness & the courage to be his/her best self! May we all have the opportunity to reflect this time next year and say, "yes" we lived our best lives perfectly imperfectly in 2017 Xo

A video posted by Meryl Davis (@meryledavis) on

It’s a message for her daughters, but Olympic champion gymnast Mary Lou Retton’s advice would work well for us all.

New Year’s … Early

Team USA athletes overseas were afforded early New Year’s Eves. Checking in from around the world were …

Rio swimming medalist Katie Meili …

Fellow 2016 Olympic swimmer Kelsi Worrell arrived in Israel more than a week ago …

Checking in from Dubai: U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team defender John Brooks …

Heading into the New Year, three Team USA lugers ranked among the top 10 women in world cup standings, including three-time Olympian and 2014 bronze medalist Erin Hamlin, who sat in third (Emily Sweeney was sixth and Olympian Summer Britcher seventh). Hamlin kicked off the New Year thusly:

Sochi sliding teammate Tucker West, who won two straight races in December, also had reason to celebrate ... 

A little closer to home for Rio swimming medalist Cody Miller …

Rounding out our Caribbean tour is two-time Olympic short track speedskater, and all-around world traveler, Aly Dudek …

Who Are You Reading?

Resolutions are one thing. Goals are another. And these are lofty, Kayla Banwarth. If you see the Rio volleyball bronze medalist, ask her whether she’s read anything good lately.

Same goes for Olympic ice dancer Evan Bates …

Rose Parade

The extended New Year’s weekend also brought with it “The Granddaddy of Them All,” also known as the Tournament of Roses Parade, the iconic tradition held in Pasadena, California, during the morning of the Rose Bowl. Parade prep looked a little something like this …

Kicking things off as Grand Marshals were LA 2024 Athletes' Advisory Commission leaders Janet Evans, Greg Louganis and Allyson Felix (here, all three Olympic champions look dashing at the President’s Ball, and they wound up with, not surprisingly, some of the best seats in the house.

But the start-studded trio wasn’t alone among Olympians and Paralympians who enjoyed Rose Bowl Parade VIP status …

The Game

Speaking of the Rose Bowl, there was, of course, a game to play between the Nittany Lions of Penn State and the Trojans of Southern Cal. After the Grand Marshals kicked things off with the honorary coin toss, one of the most entertaining bowl games in history followed — wild momentum and lead swings, more than 100 points on the board and a last-second field goal to cap a 52-49 win for USC.

And where there are big time programs with proud alumni — or, really, any competition on a grand stage — Team USA will be there. Their engagement in the game made what The New York Times called an “epic game” that much more compelling.

The setup …

The drama …

The kick …

The end …

Football Family

Though Auburn lost in the Sugar Bowl, 35-19, to Oklahoma, a Tigers running back named Chandler Cox made the night of Olympic swimming gold medalist — and noted Clemson fan — Rowdy Gaines.

Perhaps Gaines brought some good luck to the Cox household, paying off in the form of a milestone TD. The Cox household went appropriately nuts.

He’s Baaaaaack …

After a disappointing finish to his attempt to defend his London gold medal in Rio, Olympic wrestling champion Jordan Burroughs let his Twitter followers, who are generally given ample awwwwww moments thanks to his scene-stealing kids, that he wasn’t ready to walk away just yet.

Mystery Solved

In case you were wondering …

Ice Capade

The NHL has found itself a home over New Year’s holiday weekend in the form of the Winter Classic, which this year featured the St. Louis Blues (Olympian Kevin Shattenkirk is an alternate captain) and the Chicago Blackhawks (Olympian Patrick Kane is the team’s defending leading scorer after a 106-point 2015-16). While at the game, winter Olympic sports met summer Olympic sports when Hockey Hall of Famer Jeremy Roenick met Olympic champion gymnast Aly Raisman.

Any day that begins with the Stanley Cup is probably going to be a good one.

Ring-ing In The New Year

If you weren’t yet aware, tennis legend and Olympic tennis champion Serena Williams was engaged this past week to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. And when it comes to ring, the pair clearly has taste.

Sneak peek. ❀️It was a corn tortilla of course in case you were wondering.

A photo posted by Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) on

Wedding Bells, Too

Congratulations are in order for a pair of Team USA stars after recent weddings to celebrate the New Year. And leave it to Julia Mancuso, who aims to return to competition later this month after hip surgery in 2015, to hold an outdoor wedding at a ski resort in December.

On Dec. 30, an inspiring dream came true for two-time Paralympic swimmer and gold medalist Mallory Weggemann. After aiming weeks ago to walk down the aisle with her father, Weggemann made it mission accomplished.

There are absolutely no words for how incredible this past Friday was! I have dreamed of that day for years and as I walked arm in arm down the aisle with my father that dream became a reality. With each step we took I came one step closer to the love of my life and my better half. There are no words to explain the emotion in the sanctuary on Friday. We are so incredibly thankful for each and every person that came together to celebrate with us as we became husband and wife! Here is to my husband... thank you for making me feel beautiful, empowered, loved for, cared for, for making my wheelchair just magically disappear yet at the same time loving me for my wheelchair and the person that I am, you have made my every wish, hope and dream come true! #SnydermannWedding #BabySteps #WeAreMarried

A photo posted by MalloryWeggemann (@malloryweggemann) on

Martian Gold?

Two-time Olympic decathlon gold medalist Ashton Eaton is nothing if not adventurous. But Mars? The idea caught fire this week when, after announcing his retirement, he also updated his Twitter bio to read, in part, “I'm deciding what to do next. Being the 1st person on Mars would be cool.” This touched off quite a bit of speculation that Eaton didn’t exactly squash when the topic came up. On the other hand, from his wife, Brianne Theisen-Eaton, this …

Shoot-Outs Heard ‘Round The Country

It’s rare that, from nowhere on the top 10, something just appears as the No. 2 trending topic in the United States, but that’s what happened with teenage ice hockey player Troy Terry on Wednesday afternoon. Terry, a University of Denver forward playing for Team USA in the prestigious IIHF World Junior Championship, went three-for-three in a seven-round shootout win over Russia to advance to the gold-medal game in Canada. It began with this …

… which set off this:

… and earned a tweet from a Team USA legend who knows a thing or two about winning a game against Russia.

On Thursday night, Team USA finished the job with a comeback win over their hosts and rivals in Montreal — meanwhile carrying #WJC2017 to the No. 1 trending topic in the United States. Again, it was in a shoot-out, and, again, it was Terry who scored the game-winner. Team USA dug out of 2-0 and 4-2 deficits to force overtime in a thriller that had Team USA watching.

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