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Rockville mom of gold-medal-winning hockey player describes "off-the-charts experience" at Olympics

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Rockville resident Penny Skarupa (a Bethesda Magazine advertising account executive) 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. Since we last caught up with her Thursday, she and her husband, Tony, have flown back to the U.S.

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

Bethesda Beat Time: 12:08 p.m. Monday

PyeongChang Time: 2:08 a.m. Tuesday

Penny’s location: Boston, Mass., USA

Haley Skarupa, center, celebrates her gold medal win with her brother, Dylan, far left; her mother, Penny, left; her father, Tony; and her grandmother, Barbara. Credit: Penny Skarupa

Did you stay in South Korea for the closing ceremony?

No, we didn’t stay. … We watched it last night on television. … Haley got a bunch of camera time, and she did a, ‘Hi, mom.’

What was it like watching some of the Olympics on TV after experiencing it in person?

Well, you think it’s a big story because you’re kind of part of it, and it’s important to you. But then getting home and seeing how it’s all over the news – the way they won, the fact it was 20 years since they had won the gold medal. You realize what a big story it is when you get home, that it’s not just because you’re involved in it. I’m slightly blown away by all that.

What’s next for Haley?

After the closing ceremony, I think she had enough time to maybe shower, and they were all packed, so they got in a bus to go to Seoul to fly out to L.A. And they landed in L.A. a little while ago, and they’re taping an appearance on the Ellen show, and then they’re going to be doing press appearances in L.A. Then they come back to Tampa, where their kind of home base was, and they’re coming to D.C. this weekend, because they’re going to be honored at the NHL Stadium Series game in Annapolis. And going to the State Department. And from there, they go to New York and do press and media and are on the Jimmy Fallon show.

Haley with two friends, Kelly Sherman, left, and Kat Mackey, who played hockey with her in Maryland.

What were the highlights from your time in South Korea?

Seeing the gold medal ceremony and hearing the National Anthem played. And watching her [Haley] play with the Olympic rings in the background. And just the camaraderie and how nice everybody was. Every one of those athletes, they’re representing themselves as an Olympian, and they’re nice as can be. … The [gold medal] game itself was incredible. And seeing Shaun White win the gold. And the figure skating was incredible. It was really an off-the-charts experience. … We’ve gone to worlds [World Championships], but this is definitely the world stage. This is about as big as it gets. … I’ve never experienced anything like it.

Do you feel like you’ve just finished a vacation or a marathon?

It’s a combination. It was an amazing experience, but it was stressful. I mean, you want them [Team USA] to win. You want them to do well, and you’re also in a different country where you’re trying to figure out the language and the customs and all of that. So, I would say that it wasn’t a beach vacation, but it was an experience that I’ve never had before and that I probably never will again.

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