By Darci Miller | May 05, 2018, 8:20 p.m. (ET)

Olympic and Paralympic athletes spend a large amount of their time at a Games either training or competition, and understandably so. But when they step away from the field of play, even if only for an evening, they can often make memories just as vivid as those they make while competing. From sharing special moments with family to taking in other historic athletic achievements, the Games are a life-changing experience no matter how you slice it.

Twelve members of the 2018 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams shared with TeamUSA.org their favorite memories made outside of their own competition in South Korea.

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Matt Hamilton, Curling

“My favorite memory was playing with my sister. Just watching both of us be able to play in the same event, and then go on and have pretty good success on the men’s and women’s side, I was pretty excited for her. And it was cool because I kind of got her into the game and coached her into it. But I made pretty good friends with the women’s hockey team, so watching them win the gold was pretty incredible.”

 

Carlijn Schoutens, Long Track Speedskating

“I was in USA House the day after we won [team pursuit bronze] because we were invited there for our medal ceremony, and it was right at the same time as the women’s hockey final. We were there for the last 45 minutes of it, so that was perfect. It was so exhilarating to sit there with our teammates and fans and watch that unfold.”

 

Emily Sweeney, Luge

“My favorite memory of the Games I think is just hanging out in the athlete center that we had, in our onesies, on the couches, watching the events. And watching with other athletes. It was an athletes-only section that was set up like a living room style, so we could really decompress, get away from the stress of thinking about your own competition. And no coaches were in there either. So it was really just a relaxing area. And I learned a lot about slopestyle that I would’ve never known, because I was watching it with slopestyle athletes, so that was fun.”

 

Brittany Bowe, Long Track Speedskating

“I have to say walking into the Opening Ceremony. Just to be able to walk in with the rest of Team USA and to be able to share that experience with so many other countries, it’s so much bigger than just us. It’s pretty incredible.”

 

Kelly Clark, Snowboarding

“Jessie [Diggins] and Kikkan [Randall] winning the relay in cross-country was amazing. I was screaming at my TV, I was back in California. That was one of my favorite moments, and my other favorite moment was staying up really late to watch the women’s hockey shootout. I was also screaming and texting my Canadian friends and saying ‘sorry’ [with a Canadian accent].”

 

Katie Uhlaender, Skeleton

“It was hard. It was a Games that felt like a memorial to me, and I was really bummed because my races didn’t go as I had planned, and I had a surprise visit from my mom. It was just a lot of emotion. When I came across the finish line I was really sad, and when I looked up I saw Ms. Schaefer, [Steven] Holcomb’s mom, and she was just stoked! Screaming, happy, had a cutout of my face. And my heart just filled with warmth, and I remembered what it was about. She didn’t care where I came in or how I did, she was just happy. We were both going through the same loss – her more than me, I can’t imagine what she was going through – but to not be alone, it meant a lot to me. And I spent the rest of the Games mostly with her, honestly. I lost my best friend, she lost her son. It was the first time that made it really real, because I hadn’t been to an Olympic Games without him.”

 

Oksana Masters, Para Nordic Skiing

“One of my favorite memories is going to Korean barbecue with my boyfriend Aaron [Pike], who was also on the team, and his parents and my mom. We ate at this tiny little Korean barbecue. We were the only ones there! This table was probably [10 feet long] and spread out with food. And I’m embarrassed to say I finished it all. That was so fun, just experiencing the culture.”

 

Stephanie Jallen, Para Alpine Skiing

“Oh gosh, definitely watching the awards ceremonies for all of the Team USA athletes. It was really neat to watch, especially the people I know so well that are really near and dear to my heart. It was really good to see so many of us on the podiums and to lead in the medal count was so impressive and I wish all of them the best of luck and a huge congratulations.”

 

Erin Hamlin, Luge

“Probably carrying the flag in the Opening Ceremony. That’s a pretty good one. Definitely takes the cake.”

 

Meghan Duggan, Ice Hockey

“We went to the curling final, so we got to see them win their gold medal. We were going crazy in the stands – we didn’t know the etiquette of the sport or anything like that, but we were just cheering as loud as we could.”

 

John Shuster, Curling

“It was the one day we had off in the middle, and myself, my wife, my two kids and my parents got to go walk along the beach at the Sea of Japan and really just hang out and be a family for a day. I was able to kind of get a little bit of a reset on life.”

 

Elana Meyers Taylor, Bobsled

“My favorite memory is just sharing my whole experience, with Lauren [Gibbs] but with my husband [Nic Taylor, an Olympic alternate] too. That’s what makes it matter. This was my third Olympic Games, and what’s different about this Games is that it was a shared experience. I didn’t get to do a lot of activities, so it was mostly just hanging around in the lounge and things like that. Sharing those Olympic moments with people that you know and that you care about means more than anything in the world.”