By Andy MacAlpine | Jan. 17, 2018, 3:52 p.m. (ET)

Meghan Duggan poses at team processing for the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 on Feb. 2, 2014 in Munich.

 

For several months, Team USA athletes have been scattered across the globe – skiing in Switzerland and speedskating in Salt Lake City – to earn their coveted spots at the 2018 Games in PyeongChang.

Now their Olympic and Paralympic journeys are coming to an end. Their final flight, a 14-hour trek from New York to South Korea for some, will land them at team processing days before the Opening Ceremony. And for about three hours, each athlete will navigate a maze of stations and kiosks to collect all the gear they’ll ever need at the Games.

As they cycle through, they’ll spend time catching up with old friends and meeting new teammates. The room is loud, filled with laughter, tears and the nervous energy of getting ready to compete in the world’s largest athletic competition.

They arrive as individuals, but they leave as the U.S. Olympic Team and U.S. Paralympic Team, ready to take on the world.

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“A lot of athletes, they make the team and it’s a big deal,” says A.J. Turkovich of the United States Olympic Committee, who will oversee team processing for the PyeongChang Games. “Sometimes it doesn’t truly hit them until they’re at team processing and try on that Opening Ceremony outfit. When they see themselves in the mirror, that’s when it sinks in.”

That’s what happened to USA Basketball player DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers when he was at his first team processing event in 2016.

Jordan grew up watching his basketball heroes, from Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson to Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley, compete for Olympic gold. And when he slipped on his Olympic ring before the 2016 Games in Rio, all those childhood memories came rushing back.

“I grew up watching the Dream Team my whole life,” Jordan told Turkovich at the time. “It’s a dream come true for me to be a part of this team now.”

Whether it’s 17-year-old speedskating sensation Maame Biney at her first Games, or cross-country skiing veteran Kikkan Randall in her fifth, it’s an event athletes never forget. By supporting the Team USA Fund, you can be proud, too, knowing you played a part in bringing the U.S. Olympic Team together for the 2018 Games.

And the gear! Each athlete is fitted for their Opening and Closing Ceremony gear from Ralph Lauren, a medal stand outfit from Nike and a collection of village wear. They’ll get new shoes, goggles and sunglasses. They’ll be fitted for an Olympic or Paralympic ring. And they’ll have headshots taken, receive media and ambassador training, and more.

When it’s done, every Olympic and Paralympic athlete will not only be checked in and briefed on the grand experience ahead, they’ll leave with two more full duffel bags of gear.

“Our goal is always to give them a first-class experience and make sure it runs smoothly every step of the way,” Turkovich said. “We want to make sure they don’t have to think about anything other than being a part of the team and competing for Team USA.”

 

Each member of the 2018 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Team will receive the Nike medal-stand uniform at team processing.