What Team USA Wears to Work

From boxing gloves to compression pants, here’s how America’s best suit up for competition.

We tracked down 11 Olympic medal contenders (and one coach) and quizzed them on their gear, their training routines, the origins of their nicknames, even their sunscreen preferences. You can watch them all compete live once the competition gets started on Aug. 3.*

Gwen Jorgensen

Photograph by Pauline Beaudemont for Bloomberg Businessweek

Gwen Jorgensen

Sport: Triathlon
Age: 30
Location: Vitoria, Spain
Event: The Olympic triathlon is a 1,500-meter swim followed by a 40-kilometer ride and a 10km run; Saturday, Aug. 20, at 10 a.m. EST

Why are you in Spain?

I joined a training group called the Wollongong Wizards. January through May we’re in Wollongong, Australia, training together. Then we come to Europe for their summer.

How many triathletes?

Fifteen. And I’m the only American, so I’m training with my direct competitors.

You’re coming off a long winning streak.

I won 12 World Triathlon Series races in a row. I did lose this year, though—I got second in a race in Gold Coast, Australia.

How was your 2012 Olympic race?

The previous year, I’d come in second of all the best in the world on the Olympic course, so I went into London with high hopes—and I had a flat tire. It was pretty disappointing. I got 38th.

What’s special about your swimsuit?

I get cold really easily, so Roka put in a special lining that raises my body temperature about 1 degree. And the fabric is aerodynamic.

Why are there eyes on your bike helmet?

They’re the eyes of Bucky Badger! Because I graduated from the University of Wisconsin. So that’s pretty cool. Red Bull designed it.

Tell me about the bike.

It handles really well—I feel really confident riding it around fast corners. Retail, it would cost $9,000.

Why all the colors?

In cycling, if you’re a world champion you get rainbow stripes on your jersey, so Specialized has kind of adopted that. And there’s two stars to represent each world championship I’ve had.

What do you get on your bike for medaling at the Olympics?

That’s a surprise—we don’t know yet.

Claressa Shields

Photograph by Matt Nager for Bloomberg Businessweek

Claressa Shields

Sport: Boxing
Age: 21
Location: Colorado Springs
Event: Women compete in three weight classes: 112 pounds, 132 lbs., and 165 lbs. Shields won the gold medal in the 165-lb. class at the 2012 Games, the first that offered boxing for women; Sunday, Aug. 21, at 1 p.m. EST

How did your last Olympics go?

It was a great experience. Everybody I fought against was older than me, taller than me, and a lot bigger. I just had the skills to pay the bills.

What are you expecting this year?

To come out on top again with another gold medal and to be the first American boxer, male or female, to win two Olympic gold medals.

You’ve said that you’re fighting for Flint, Mich., your hometown.

I’m aspiring to bring hope to Flint and bring awareness not just to the water crisis, but also to the murder rate and the poverty level. When I do good, Flint people feel good.

Do you have a day job?

I have a monthly stipend from USA Boxing, but that’s really more used for boxing: gear, extra mouthpieces, shoes. And also I help my mom and my sisters and them pay bills. I just got my little brother a car.

Why are you wearing red?

Red is the color of victory. The No. 1 seed always wears red.

What’s the white waistline?

It’s to show the refs what’s a body shot. If you punch below that white line, you can get called for a foul.

Are those your training gloves?

No, these are the gloves we box in internationally. They’re 10 ounces. I actually train in 16-oz. gloves. When you go from hitting the bag every day in 16-oz. to then fighting in 10-oz., it makes you feel stronger, and your punches are definitely faster because the gloves are smaller.

What do you do with your hair to fight?

I braid it in two big braids and put it into one [ponytail]. And just put a big-old hair tie around it and make sure it don’t move.

Paige Railey

Photograph by Bob Croslin for Bloomberg Businessweek

Paige Railey

Sport: Sailing
Age: 29
Location: Clearwater, Fla.
Event: Railey sails a Laser Radial, a small boat that can be maneuvered by one person, even in heavy winds; Monday, Aug. 15, at 12 p.m EST

What will the competition be like in Rio?

It’s over eight days, and on five of those I’ll be doing two races a day. The last day the top 10 compete against each other. Everyone has the same equipment—they actually give us boats during the Olympics. I’m going in as a favorite for gold.

You and your brother both sailed in 2012. Is he on the team this year?

No. He tried to qualify, but he lost in the last race, unfortunately.

Do you wear anything to protect your face?

I usually wear a mask because I have scarring on my face from a bike accident. If the sun were to hit the scars, it would discolor the skin.

Tell me about the rings stacked on your finger.

I wear them to remind myself of a promise. It has nothing to do with a man—it’s a promise I made to myself.

Do you want to share the promise?

No, I haven’t shared it with anybody. But once the promise is done, then I’ll take the rings off.

Meb Keflezighi

Photograph by Delaney Allen for Bloomberg Businessweek

Meb Keflezighi

Sport: Track and field
Age: 41
Location: Eugene, Ore.
Event: Keflezighi competed in three previous Olympics: 2000, 2004, and 2012. (He was injured in 2008.) He won silver in the 2004 marathon and finished fourth in 2012. In 2014 he won the Boston Marathon, the first American man to do so since 1983; Sunday, Aug. 21, at 8:30 a.m. EST

When I Google you, all of the news stories that pop up are about your age.

It takes me about an hour now to get ready to go for a run. Back in the day, it was just get up and go. But at the same time, when the gun goes off, I don’t think about it.

What do you do for the hour?

I do foam rolling, stretching, squats. I like to have some tea or toast. It’s at my leisure.

Do you have a coach?

I train by myself. I self-direct—I do all the planning and arrangements.

You have very well-groomed nails.

My wife always says that. I also have good feet. When I go to a massage, they’re like, “You don’t look like you run marathons.”

Nice shorts.

I wear these every day in different colors. They allow me to have effective mechanics, and they have the little pocket in the back for a key.

The swimmers and the triathletes all shave their bodies. Do you?

I did in college but not anymore.

Why not?

I think it’s a placebo effect.

Paul George

Photograph by Douglas Emery for Bloomberg Businessweek

Paul George

Sport: Basketball
Age: 26
Location: Las Vegas
Event: Basketball begins with group competition: The 12 qualifying teams are split into two groups of six; they play each team in their group once, earning 2 points for a win and 1 point for a loss. The top four teams from each group advance to the knockout round. USA Men’s Basketball has won 14 of the 17 Olympic tournaments they’ve participated in; Sunday, Aug. 21, at 2:45 p.m. EST

How many Olympics have you been to?

This is my first.

Congratulations! How do the Olympics differ from the NBA?

In the NBA, we’re representing our city. Here we’re representing our country, so it’s just a bigger scale. We’re so used to battling during the season, and now we’re joining forces to really do something great. We don’t get to do this often: play with some of the greatest in this league and just bond and build a friendship and a brotherhood. This is something a lot of guys in the NBA won’t get to experience.

Do you know everyone?

If I haven’t played against them for years, we’ve played growing up. And it’s kind of like that across the whole board—I don’t think anyone feels uncomfortable here.

What shoes are those?

They’re the new Nike Hyperdunks. They’re really loose and light, and the material allows your feet to breathe.

What do you need from a jersey?

Real simple material. And it really needs to absorb sweat well, so it’s not sticking to you. It needs to be loose around the arms, so when you’re shooting you don’t feel restricted.

Tell me about your tattoos.

05-02-90 is my birthdate, and it’s right next to my zodiac sign, Taurus.

What’s on your hand?

I have a lion on my right hand and a tiger on my left. They’re the kings of the jungles, the most dominant forces on land, and that’s how I view myself: as strong and as dominant as possible.

Will you get a tattoo of the Olympic rings?

I’ll probably get something related to the Olympics. Maybe it’ll be a date or something about Rio.

Oh, do basketball players not get the tattoos of the rings? The way the whole swim team does?

Nah. We just get the gold medal.

Women’s USA Rugby Team
Photograph by Michael Friberg for Bloomberg Businessweek

Jillion Potter

Sport: Rugby
Age: 30
Location: Chula Vista, Calif.
Event: Rugby’s rules are similar to those of American football. The game is played on a 100-meter-by-70-meter field, with H-shaped goal posts at each end. Players score four ways: a 5-point try, when a player touches the ball to the ground in the opponent’s goal area; a 2-point conversion kick, following a try; a 3-point drop goal, similar to a field goal; and a 3-point penalty kick. The ball can be run or kicked forward, but passes must be lateral or backward; Monday, Aug. 8, at 4:30 p.m. EST

This is women’s rugby’s first time in the Olympics and the first appearance for men’s rugby since 1924. How have the games changed things for you?

You know, personally, it can add a bit of pressure. But at the end of the day, win or lose, we’re spreading the love of the game and allowing young women to see that they can play a physical sport.

What’s the best thing about rugby?

That there’s no difference between the men’s and women’s games. Same rules, same everything. But the community alone is worth it. You could walk up to practice like, “Hey, I think I like rugby!” And everyone would just take you in with open arms.

What can we look forward to in Rio?

Rugby is an incredibly fast game—only 15 minutes long—and there’s lots of high-velocity tackles, scoring, and one-on-one [plays].

What’s special about rugby clothes?

They can be pulled or yanked and won’t rip.

Those look like normal shorts, though.

The material is very resilient. When the ball goes out of bounds, you often use the player’s shorts to lift her up in the air to [catch the ball as it’s thrown back into play], so you don’t want loose-fitting mesh.

It looks like everyone is wearing different shoes.

Yeah, there’s no restrictions on what players can wear. Most wear soccer cleats. If it’s muddy, we might grab our rugby boots, which tend to have metal studs.

Do you wear any protective gear?

Some of our girls wear scrum caps. We optionally wear shoulder pads. And mouthguards are essential—they protect more against concussions than [they protect] your teeth.

How so?

Apparently, if you get hit in the face, it reduces the shock.

You must slather on sunscreen.

I’m incredibly fair-skinned, so I go through two containers a week. I’ve been using the one at the Olympic training center that’s pure zinc oxide. It’s so thick that I put it on and like to let it sit on my face for a while before I rub it in. And I look like a ghost.

Please tell me about the pink.

These are our training jerseys. The men also have pink jerseys. I honestly don’t know why.

Bob Bowman

Photograph by Mark Peterman for Bloomberg Businessweek

Bob Bowman

Sport: Swimming
Age: 52
Location: Tempe, Ariz.
Event: Bowman, head coach of this year’s men’s team, coaches both men’s and women’s swimming at Arizona State University. He’s coached 22-time Olympic medalist Michael Phelps for 20 years; Tuesday, Aug. 9, at 9 p.m. EST

Are those water-resistant shorts?

They’re kind of water-repellent. I actually have four pairs, all some shade of khaki.

Do you always wear a hat?

It’s a must. It covers my whole face and neck. Obviously you still wear sunscreen. I vary it—usually Neutrogena.

Before the Olympics, what’s your biggest challenge?

Keeping our minds on swimming and not worrying about any other stuff that’s going on: Zika, security, whatever. I’ve been to many Olympics and found people get very caught up with issues prior to the games, and once you’re there, they’re minimal.

What do you do when you’re not coaching the Olympics?

I breed racehorses. Michael [Phelps] and I have a couple horses that we race together, and I have some mares that we breed and either sell or try to race.

Laura Zeng

Photograph by Lyndon French for Bloomberg Businessweek

Laura Zeng

Sport: Rhythmic gymnastics
Age: 16
Location: Deerfield, Ill.
Event: Rhythmic gymnastics routines can involve a ball, a hoop, a ribbon, or clubs, which are balanced, tossed, or twirled while the athlete performs required jumps, balances, or flexes for points; Saturday, Aug. 20, at 2:20 p.m. EST

What’s a typical training day for you?

Usually I come to the gym right after school for three to four hours. We do one hour of stretching and our warmup, and then the bulk is running our routines.

Do you lift weights?

No, but we do cross-training: Ballet is a core element of rhythmic gymnastics. Sometimes we run.

What’s on your feet?

Toe shoes. Everyone wears them. They cover just the front of the foot so you can still turn.

You’re wearing a lot of makeup.

We joke around that it’s drag queen makeup, because it’s kind of intense. But you need it with the lights. We use a lot of hair spray.

What is the secret to throwing something very high and catching it?

Practice. We do so many repetitions of each toss—at least 20 or 30 every day, plus in our routines. It becomes muscle memory.

Seth Weil

Photograph by Laurel Golio for Bloomberg Businessweek

Seth Weil

Sport: Rowing
Age: 29
Location: Princeton, N.J.
Event: The Olympics feature two styles of rowing: sculls and sweeps. In sculls, each athlete rows with two oars, pulling on both sides of the boat; in sweeps, they each have one oar and pull on alternate sides; Friday, Aug. 12, at 7:30 a.m. EST

What are you wearing?

It’s a racing unisuit. Any kind of bagging is gonna get caught in our seats or cause chafing, so it’s a form-fitting elastic. It’s incredibly thin.

You’re not wearing anything else.

A lot of guys wear sunglasses or hats. I find it really distracting when I move my head rapidly. They get into my field of vision.

What about shoes?

Our shoes are mounted on the boat.

You’re the only rower I see with a beard. Is it aerodynamic?

Everyone gives me a hard time. It’s not too much of a problem because we face backwards.

That oar is so long.

They’re about 12 feet long and made out of a wrapped fiberglass composite material, so they’re light. It’s akin to golf club technology—it’s a flexible shaft but also strong enough to withstand the load that’s being put on it.

Do you wear sunscreen?

Yep. It’s an energy-saving technique: If I get sunburned, my body will spend the rest of the day repairing my skin and not repairing from training. Anyone with a sunburn knows how tired you get.

What’s it like to train full time and not be working?

It’s a little nerve-racking. I’m pushing 30, and I’ve been doing this relatively selfish endeavor for going on 10 years now. I went to school for aerospace engineering. Anything that flies is my favorite.

English Gardner

Photograph by Gaea Woods for Bloomberg Businessweek

English Gardner

Sport: Track and field
Age: 24
Location: Los Angeles
Event: Gardner runs the 100-meter dash, the signature sprinting event in track and field. American Florence Griffith Joyner, aka Flo Jo, set the Olympic record in 1988; Saturday, Aug. 13, at 7 p.m. EST

Your name is awesome. How did you get it?

When my mom was pregnant, she just felt like her baby was going to be on the world’s stage, so she wanted her child to have a special name that was hard to forget and sounded pretty good over an intercom. She worked at a hospital, and one of the doctors’ names was English, and when she heard it over the intercom, she was like, “That’s it!”

How did you do at trials?

I ran a personal record, 10.74 seconds. At that time, I would’ve won every Olympic Games except for the one Flo Jo won.

Are you picky about racing socks?

The socks don’t really matter. Some people don’t even run in socks—I just do so I don’t get blisters.

What’s your shoe size?

I’m a nine-and-a-half. I have boats. I cover more ground that way, I guess.

I hear you have an alter ego named Baby Beast.

Yeah, she’s the person that’s on the starting line before the gun goes off. I started noticing her when I was in college. I would have amazing performances but not really remember the race—I just remember crossing the line and then snapping out of it. So that’s when I decided to give it a name, and she’s been sticking with me ever since.

Bob & Mike Bryan

Photograph by Delaney Allen for Bloomberg Businessweek

Bob & Mike Bryan

Sport: Tennis
Age: 38
Location: Portland, Ore.
Event: Doubles tennis is similar to singles, with the exception that the alleys on the sides of the court are not out of bounds. One player stands closer to the net while the other covers the base line, and they swap spots after each point; Friday, Aug. 12, at 11 a.m. EST

How many Olympics have you been to?

Mike: This will be our fourth. We won gold in London, bronze in Beijing, and came away empty-handed in Athens. We’re hoping to get another shiny medal.

Where are the games in your schedule?

Mike: We just got back from Wimbledon, and the US Open’s pretty much right after. But it’s a unique opportunity. A lot of players, even the top singles guys, are trying to peak for it.

From a business perspective, how are the Olympics different? Obviously there’s no cash prize.

Mike: There’s a lot of sponsor deals. It’s huge for athletes: If you can be successful, that usually translates monetarily down the road.

Do you always dress the same?

Bob: Well, I’m wearing a watch on my right hand, and Mike takes his watch off for matches. He’ll tape his wrist sometimes and wear an ankle brace. I wear compression pants to play in. Other than that, we’re identical.

Tell me about your rackets.

Bob: It’s our custom Bryan Brothers racket. We actually designed it.
Mike: It’s weighted in the head of the racket, which stabilizes the frame and adds a little bit more power.

What are your best Olympic memories?

Mike: Opening ceremonies in Athens. We’re big Lakers fans, and we were walking out with Kobe Bryant. Then later, obviously, being on the podium, the national anthem, getting the medal around your neck—that’s pretty surreal. We never really tear up after winning a title, but we were getting a little misty-eyed.

*This year, NBC, the games’ long-standing U.S. broadcaster, will air 6,755 hours of Olympic programming across 10 TV and cable channels, including Telemundo, MSNBC, CNBC, Bravo, and two channels set up to broadcast Olympic basketball and golf exclusively. Check listings closer to the date of competition to find out which network is showing what and when. You can also stream any of the events live via the NBC Sports app. Not in the U.S.? Look up your local broadcaster for details.