PyeongChang – Days 15 and 16

Penny Skarupa says daughter’s gold medal win was “the culmination of an incredible dream”


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Rockville resident Penny Skarupa (a Bethesda Magazine advertising account executive) has traveled nearly 7,000 miles to South Korea to 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 Thursday.

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

Bethesda Beat Time: 9:17 a.m. Thursday

PyeongChang Time: 11:17 p.m. Thursday

Penny’s location: In a van with her family, heading from one celebration to another after the U.S. women’s hockey team beat Canada to win a gold medal.

Penny Skarupa with her daughter, Haley, her husband and her son after the gold medal game. Credit: Penny Skarupa

Congratulations!

Thanks! We’re very happy. We’re in our van, and we’re going to celebrate a little more. People have been texting and posting, and I can’t keep up with social media.

What was the gold medal game like?

It was amazing. It was just such a nail-biter. … We did not think it was going to work out until they [Team USA] tied it, and when they went to the shootout, we all went completely nuts. And then, when they won, it was just amazing. I cried. The waterproof mascara didn’t work.

Can you describe the atmosphere inside the rink?

There were a lot of Canadians there. We kept out-cheering them. … They would start, and we would kind of overpower a little bit. It would go back and forth, but it was primarily, “U-S-A.”

What happened after the game?

Well, they did the medal ceremony immediately after. We waited through that, and then we weren’t sure if they were going to let you down on the ice. Not all the parents went down, but my family went down. And they didn’t necessarily want you on, so much, but we got on. There were a couple of security guards, but a couple of players motioned us on over, and then … we were good.

How was Haley feeling?

She had her coach from Maryland there and then two of her best friends. … We all went down on the ice, and one of them basically lifted me over the rail to get me on the ice, so that was a little comical. We were all taking pictures together. … It was just the culmination of an incredible dream. I mean, it’s been her dream forever to see that gold medal around her neck. It completely blows your mind, and it renders someone like me speechless. Which is very difficult to do.

And since then?

We’ve been celebrating. … There was a reception immediately afterward for the friends and family and players right across the street from where the girls are staying. It was kind of a buffet and open bar. And they were on the Today show, so we went to that broadcast. The Czech house is right across the street from where the girls are staying, so we went there. Most of the families were there. And now we’re on the way to another house, where some of the girls are … including Haley.

Editor’s note: Earlier that day, before the game, Penny had spoken with Bethesda Beat about her last few days in PyeongChang. It was about 6:15 a.m. her time, and she’d already been awake several hours, thinking about the gold medal game Haley was about to play.

How are you feeling today?

Eh. I’m good.

I know you watched an interview on the Today show set earlier this week. How’d that go?

That was great. I got a lot of selfies with Hoda [Kotb] and Savannah [Guthrie]. … Hoda came out during every commercial break and was taking selfies. Savannah came out once when I was there. And, of course, Al [Roker] was out there doing the broadcast for the weather, so he was doing a bunch of selfies.

Penny Skarupa, center, poses with Savannah Guthrie. Credit: Penny Skarupa

How has it been watching Haley’s games since your son, Dylan, and mother-in-law arrived?

Well, it’s really special. I think Haley really likes having them here, too, and there’s a lot of camaraderie with the siblings and significant others of people on the team. They kind of have a group text going. … And my mother-in-law is just a trooper. She’s pushing 80, and she’s hanging.

What houses have you visited since we spoke last?

A few of them are very close together, like the Swiss house and the Swedish house. … When we got back from the men’s downhill, we visited the Swedish house, and we had Swedish meatballs there, which were amazing. And they actually had a mini-biathlon set up, so my husband [Tony] and son [Dylan], they did a little bit of BB gun shooting. … That particular day was in the 40s. … It was gorgeous. And then over at the Swiss house … I got homemade Swiss hot chocolate and it had a shot of soju, which is Korean vodka. And it was great. They had like Swiss dancers, well, they were Korean. But they were yodeling and doing Eidelweiss and everything.

Have you met any famous people since we last spoke?

[Today meteorologist] Dylan Dreyer. … She must’ve been covering the game for NBC, and I’m a huge Today show fan. My husband and another friend were going up to her and talking to her, and of course, that’s when I went up and I mentioned we have a daughter on the [USA women’s hockey] team, and we got a picture. She was nice as can be. … Very, very sweet. You could tell she wasn’t looking past you to see who else she could be talking to. We also saw [snowboarder and gold medalist] Red Gerard. One of Tony’s roommates from college, they were neighbors with the Gerards when Red was a baby back in Cleveland, before Red moved to Colorado. … And they keep in touch. Tony’s roommates, they said, “You have to look for our friends, the Gerards. Their son, Red, is competing in snowboarding.” … They [the Gerards] happened to be in the hotel lobby we were walking into to get to the USA house yesterday, and my son spotted them. Our friends had told the Gerards to look for us, too. We talked to them for a little while. Red told my mother-in-law that he loved her pin, because she has a Haley Skarupa pin on her backpack that she carries around. … He’s very chill, and he’s just very unaffected by all this, because he doesn’t know any better, because he’s 17. … Oh, and do you want to hear a story?

Penny with her husband, Tony, and her mother-in-law, Barbara, at the women's short program figure skating.

Sure!

It was the morning of the Finland game. We’re like 40 minutes away from the coastal area, and we had hired this driver. We had this driver the day before, when Tony’s mom first got here. … He was unbelievable, so the next day, we told him what time we needed him to pick us up. … So, the morning of the Finland game, it’s 10 o’clock, and our driver is nowhere to be found. And so Tony calls him and is talking to him, and I see the look on Tony’s face. He says, “Thirty minutes? Thirty minutes? That’s not acceptable.” [Our driver] had overslept, and we didn’t have tickets yet. … So I ended up getting us a cab by the skin of our teeth. … Tony had to sprint to get the tickets on the other side of the stadium—we had 10 minutes to spare. … Oh my gosh. Then, Tony spoke with the owner of the company for the driver, and so we got a nine-seater van with a [different] driver. … But can you imagine? Before, essentially, the silver medal game, we didn’t have a ride into the coastal region.

Have you seen Haley?

We did get to see Haley after the Finland game. The Czech house is right across the street from where the [athletes’] living quarters is. … So we met her and one of her teammates at the Czech house. And Haley actually played ping-pong with one of the people at the Czech house. They asked who is good at ping-pong, and Haley is really good at ping-pong. So we were saying even if she didn’t win the Olympics, she won a pair of Czech gloves playing ping-pong. And then, she gave the gloves to her grandmother.

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