PyeongChang – Day 6

PyeongChang – Day 6

Rockville mom watches her daughter compete on Olympic ice and meets gold medal-winning retired speed skater Dan Jansen

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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 graduate.

Bethesda Beat Time: 4:04 p.m. Monday

PyeongChang Time: 6:04 a.m. Tuesday

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

Penny and Tony Skarupa with their daughter, Haley, center, on Sunday after her first hockey game. Team USA beat Finland 3-1. Credit: Penny Skarupa

Did you attend the opening ceremony?

We ended up at the last minute deciding we would go, so we were like rushing to get transportation there. … It was pretty unbelievable. We had very good seats, and we were able to see everything pretty up close. It was cold, but it wasn’t as cold, because we were down low. They gave you this bag, and it had like a seat warmer and hand warmers and feet warmers. Because you were wearing gloves, and they wanted you to clap, they gave you something to bang with. … And then they gave you a light stick to hold up, and then behind you, there were lights that would go off. I wish the lights were heaters, because they were right on our seats.

What was your favorite part of the opening ceremony?

When the United States walked in. That was very emotional. … They didn’t do it by the English alphabet, they did it by the Korean alphabet, so the United States walked fairly early. … Oh my God, when you see your kid walk in representing your country with all those amazing athletes, and she’s part of that … I got emotional before it even started.

What were the athletes wearing?

They wore these Ralph Lauren opening ceremony jackets that were heated. They were battery-operated and heated. … [Haley] said they were toasty warm.

How about you?

We were layered, and I had the hand warmers. I had everything, but it was cold, especially for the people who were higher up. The [other hockey] parents, a lot of them are from Minnesota, and they said they were the coldest they’ve ever been. They said it was like a bone-chilling wind.

Were you able to buy hot food or drinks at the opening ceremony?

We ordered soup, and it wasn’t really warm. And then I had hot chocolate, but it was kind of lukewarm.

Tell me about Haley’s first game against Finland on Sunday.

We didn’t do much during the day Sunday because we were so paranoid about being able to get there OK and not missing the bus. … We got there for warmups and just the introductions and having them on the jumbotron. … She got decent ice time, which was nice. It was just very, very exciting, but it was a nail-biter, because Finland scored first.

Do all the Team USA families sit together?

Oh yeah, we all sat together because we got the tickets together beforehand. … I was in my red, white and blue and clapping and yelling. But I tend to sit there very quietly with my hands over my mouth. I used to be a nail-biter. I don’t do that anymore, but naturally, my hands go to my face.

And then we were able to see Haley afterwards. … They have like a gathering place in the rink where friends and family could see the athletes.

How is Haley doing?

She’s having the time of her life. We’ve barely seen her. … At the opening ceremony, she met Shaun White, Apolo Ohno, Gus Kenworthy, Brian Gionta, who is the captain of the men’s hockey team, who also went to Boston College.

Have you seen any celebrities so far?

When we move to our hotel in the mountains, I’m told that some of the NBC people are there. We met Dan Jansen, the former speedskater. … He was incredibly gracious. … Dan was staying at our hotel, and he was at breakfast. The day before, he was sitting at the table right next to us, and we didn’t realize who it was. He was there again the next day, and my husband and I, we actually have a mutual friend with him. So Tony [Penny’s husband] went up and mentioned the mutual friend, and they started chatting, and Tony brought him over because he knows that I’m a fan.

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