PyeongChang – Day 0

Rockville parents watch their daughter go for the gold


Today, Rockville resident Penny Skarupa (a Bethesda Magazine advertising account executive) is on a plane bound for South Korea, where she will see her daughter, Haley, play hockey for Team USA in the 2018 Winter Olympics. Haley Skarupa found out in December that she had made the team and since then the family has been making plans to attend the games. Penny Skarupa agreed to provide Bethesda Beat with regular updates on what it’s like to be at the Olympics. She took a break from her last-minute packing to call us for our first conversation.

Click the link for some background on Haley, a Wootton graduate.

Bethesda Beat Time: 2:30 p.m. Tuesday

PyeongChang Time: 4:30 a.m. Wednesday

Penny’s location: The family's second home, a brownstone in Boston's South End 

Penny Skarupa packs for her trip to South Korea. Credit: Penny Skarupa

How do you prepare for traveling to the Olympics as an athlete’s family member?

Well, basically, whoever wants to come over can come over. …  A lot of these parents had already booked [hotels], because their girls had gotten on the team in May. We came on to it in Christmas, so we really had to scramble. … Each family will get four tickets to each of the girls’ games. … We had to book flights for my mother-in-law and son, who are going to come over on the 15th. We reached out to the events person and made sure that we have the right transportation and [help] figuring out the other things. They have a Proctor & Gamble house that friends and family have access to. You get four tickets to that, and it’s supposed to be your home away from home. … They say it’s a very nice place. … They have food sometimes, and they have tickets to some of the events. And then apparently, there’s a USA house, which is where a lot of the celebrities go. And that’s supposed to be really nice, too. 

What’s inside the handbook that the Olympic committee gave you?

That’s the Team USA PyeongChang 2018 Friends and Family Handbook. It’s like 48 pages. … A lot of it is about the food [that will be available]. It’s maps and shuttle buses and the money and all of that. They explain about the ceremonies. Some of it is key phrases in Korean and phonetically explained. It’s the weather, mobile apps, what stuff to do before you go and kind of like a checklist.

Who’s coming with you and your husband?

My 26-year-old son, Dylan, and he is going to be traveling with my almost 80-year-old mother-in-law. They leave on the 15th. They should be there, hopefully, for the medal games. … She [Penny’s mother-in-law] has actually been there to South Korea a couple times before. She was a steel buyer, and she bought steel there.

Penny Skarupa, left, and Haley Skarupa

When is the last time you talked to Haley?

Haley is not a big one to talk on the phone, but we were texting this morning. Because they’re 14 hours ahead, it was 2:30 this morning, and I woke up and was texting her. And then, when I was starting my day, she was saying goodnight to me. … Right now, they’re going through processing. They get their opening and closing ceremony outfits. They get their podium outfits. … They’re all dressed alike, so they get fitted when they get there for all of these outfits. They had a tailor there tailoring their jeans. … So, they go to different stations, like they go to Oakley and pick out sunglasses. There was a Samsung station, and a volunteer was passing out cell phones. It turned out, she went to Wootton High School with Haley. … She might’ve even put it on social media, saying, “Maryland is in the house!”

How are you feeling?

I just want to keep myself well. I’ve never been like a germaphobe. But recently, I’ve been a paranoid person, like hand sanitizing and washing my hands and taking the wellness pills. I’m not nervous to travel. I’m not nervous to go over there. I just want to be well. … We did have to get recommended shots. It wasn’t mandatory, it was just recommended that we either take the typhoid pills or get a typhoid shot or get a Hepatitis A shot. So I took the pills, and I got the Hepatitis A shot.

Are you planning on going crazy in the stands when Haley plays? Or are you more laid back as a fan-mom?

I’m generally more chilled out, but this is the Olympics. I bought the hat. I bought the mittens. I got a red scarf. I got a USA scarf. I brought some of Haley’s things. … I’ve got a couple of her sweatshirts and things like that. ... Ironically, you can get some of the [Olympic] stuff at Old Navy—a lot of the same stuff that is on the Team USA site. But we’re pretty decked out. … I’m not doing the signs or the face paint. My friends are telling me I should. We were with friends this weekend, and they said Tony [Penny’s husband] should go shirtless. … A 56-year-old man doing that? I don’t think so.

Are you going to the opening ceremony?

I’m not sure. It’s going to be like really, really, really cold. I would do it in a heartbeat if I knew I could see her walk in, but I don’t know if it’s worth it to do it and not see her. … They are having an event for the parents at one of the hotels. So I think we’re going to wait and see.

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