PyeongChang – Day 2

Olympics ‘just brings the whole world together,’ says Rockville mom in South Korea to watch her daughter go for the gold


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Rockville resident Penny Skarupa (a Bethesda Magazine advertising account executive) has traveled nearly 7,000 miles to 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 the family made 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. We last caught up with her on Tuesday. This conversation took place after Penny and her husband, Tony, woke up from their first night in South Korea.

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

Bethesda Beat Time: 2:50 p.m. Thursday

PyeongChang Time: 4:50 a.m. Friday

Penny’s location: Her hotel room in Gangneung, South Korea

Penny and her husband, Tony, on their first full day in South Korea. Credit: Penny Skarupa.

How are you feeling?

I’m feeling pretty good, actually. It’s barely 5 o’clock in the morning here. I did get quite a bit of sleep, it just wasn’t on Korean time. … It was a long flight. And then we had to take a bus from the terminal to where our bus-slash-van was, and then three hours from the airport to the hotel. … We rode with two of the other women’s hockey families that we know very well. … We were all staying in three different hotels, so we had to drop off one family and then another family and then we were the last one.

How many hours was your trip?

Oh my God. We left our place in Boston at 2:30 [a.m.] for a 5:30 flight and then we got to the hotel in South Korea at 10 p.m. South Korean time. At least 20 hours travel. … I haven’t seen daylight here yet.

Is there a lot of security for the Olympics? Does the area seem prepared for all the international visitors?

For our hotel, we did have to go through a metal detector. They seem very prepared. They had a ton of people at our hotel. … They had plenty of people at the front desk. The only long line was customs, which we expected. … Everybody seems friendly, although I was kind of in a catatonic state when I got in.

What’s your hotel called?

The St. John’s, and it’s brand new. It was completed two weeks ago.

For the Olympics?

Yeah, I’m pretty sure. … It’s a very nice hotel room. Not huge, but it’s more than comfortable, and God knows it’s clean because it’s brand new.

Have you seen anything that excited you for the Olympics?

We drove in to PyeongChang, and it’s lit up, and we saw some stuff with the Olympic rings. The one thing that actually got me very emotional was, on the highway that led in, they had flags from each one of the countries kind of on the side. That got all of us kind of emotional. … It just made it real.

Do you know the families of Haley’s teammates well?

Oh yeah. These girls, their daughters have played with Haley for years. one of them played with Haley at BC (Boston College). Another played at Vermont. So we’ve known these people for a while.

Are you and the other families getting nervous for the hockey games?

I think we were kind of nervous about getting here and acclimating ourselves, but we’re so happy for the girls. … I think it’s more pride and excitement than nerves.

How is Haley liking the atmosphere here so far?

Haley told me when she went to the gym, she thought it was the coolest thing that she was working out, and she was next to someone from Israel and someone from the Netherlands. … She saw the North Korean athletes walking around at the gym. … It just brings the whole world together, and it’s such a special thing to see. And she said there were photographers taking pictures of everybody (at the gym).

Are there photographers pretty much everywhere she goes?

Well, in fact, when we were in Boston … we just happened to be watching the local news, and they showed the athletes doing different things. And they showed Haley from the back. She was walking and drinking water. I texted her and said, Is that you? Because she’s got a really messy ponytail, and it could only be her ponytail. And she said, Oh my God! I can’t believe they got that!

What are your plans for the weekend?

Well the first game is Sunday against Finland, so we’ll go and see the game. And then we wanted just to get the lay of the land and figure out what’s what and experience some of the local flavor and go to that Procter & Gamble house and kind of figure stuff out. At this point, even just see our hotel.

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