Last month’s Paralympic Trials felt unusually exhilarating, and COVID is part of the reason. After 15-plus months of uncertainty and disruption, the participants felt grateful simply to be competing for keeps, with a trip to Tokyo on the line. The year’s delay made the thrill of earning a roster spot that much sweeter . . . . and the pain of missing out that much harder to swallow. We combed US athletes’ Instagram feeds to get a sense of their highs and lows in the wake of the Trials. Here’s a sampler (with light edits):

HAVEN SHEPHERD, swimming (@havenfaithshepherd)
I have worked really hard for five years to make the US team for Tokyo . . . . .but what if I hadn’t made it??? Before they announced the team, I wasn’t sure if I would be selected or not. The last five years I have made decisions for a goal that I wasn’t sure would happen. I had to decide if it was worth the risk, because the truth is, we don’t always get what we work hard for.

So alongside the goal I set to make Team USA, I set another goal: No matter the outcome, I would embrace the experiences I had and the life I got to live throughout the choices I made. The muscles of determination & self-discipline I have built will serve me well in my adult life. I’ve experienced disappointment, failure, joy & success . . . . sometimes all in the same day. The memories, lessons, friendships, and character I’ve built along the way are worth it!! It really is about the journey.

JASON MACOM, cycling (@jason.macom)
I want to publicly say thank you to all who have supported me in one way or another in my endeavor to race for Team USA at the Tokyo Paralympics. Unfortunately, that journey stops today, as I was not selected to the team.

The selection process is extremely complicated and competitive, with only eight spots allocated across track and road, including handcycles and trikes. My focus event was the pursuit, where I rode a personal best of 4:44. But I would have had to have ridden 4:32 to have qualified. That’s seven seconds faster than the US record.

I’m quite proud of all that I’ve accomplished over the last few years in this endeavor. Two National Championships wins in the pursuit. Won the Omnium at the 2019 Track World Championships. Two silver medals the 2020 Track World Championships. Made the finals in the C4/5 pursuit at the Para PanAm Games.

This is only the end of the beginning. Go USA!

BEATRIZ HATZ, track and Field (@bhatz_track)
It was an honor to have competed at the Paralympic Trials and hit my PB 12.86s and to do it in front of the living legend and trail blazer April Holmes made it even more special ! She paved the way for athletes like myself to be presented as professional elite athletes to the world, changing and expanding the Paralympic movement with all her achievements on and off the track.

HAILEY DANZ, triathlon (@hailstormusa)
It’s been harder just trying to stay competitive throughout this Paralympic cycle than it was to make the podium in Rio. I’ve wanted this for so long, and I can honestly say the jubilation I felt yesterday was worth every devastation, every risk, and every second of hard work I faced along the way.

What made this day truly special was that I got to share it with dozens of people from every phase of my life: family, neighbors, high school friends, camp friends, dare2tri friends, EDGE friends, teammates, and support staff. When I think about my favorite people on this earth, a startling number of them were there yesterday. They had me smiling for the whole last mile of the run (an UNPRECEDENTED feat), and I haven’t stopped smiling since.

Thank you for the love, support, and belief in me. My cup runneth over. Next stop: Tokyo!

TOM DAVIS, cycling (@tomdavisparacycling)
All you need in life is a few friends that will be there no matter what happens. Freddie de los Santos is one of those friends. My non-biological twin brother and I started training together back in 2015 and he has been with me through everything. From the ridiculous hours on the bike during training camps to the freezing cold hurricane of the Boston marathon in 2018, from crossing the sink hole in Solvang to to speaking to kids in South Africa. He’s always there to celebrate a win, and he gave up his race to ride with me when I’ve crashed.

And I’m so proud to say that he’ll be there in Tokyo as a member of Team USA. Here’s to having great friends that you can always rely on. And here’s to sitting on the beach, old and fat, waiting for Jamie to get us some Bustelo coffee. Thanks for being a great friend, Freddie.

DANI ARAVICH, track and field (@theonearmdan)
I did this for my parents, who have gone all in & financially assisted me in accomplishing this crazy dream.

I did this for every track coach who has been gracious enough to offer me their time and knowledge.

I did this for every boss who was willing and understanding when I would have to leave early for the day or come in late.

I did this for every physical therapist, chiropractor, massage therapist who has helped me endure my consistent knee issues in order to perform.

I did this for @cafoundation, @team_catapult, @womenssportsfoundation who financially supported these wild dreams and goals.

I did this for my country that I will be so proud to represent.

I did this for people who thought leaving a stable career to pursue an athletic dream was CRAZY and SILLY and UNREALISTIC.

But at the end of the day . . . . I did this for me. And guess what? I f***ing did it. See you soon, Tokyo.