6:05 a.m. Eastern - The largest group of our families and friends are en route! Nearly two dozen fans will travel through various airports today to make their way to South Korea. Fingers crossed for good weather (the forecast in Ottawa and Toronto isn’t great). Today we will document our journey as we #FlyTheFlag and head for our final destination: Gangneung, South Korea (hopefully) some 24 hours later.
If you’ve been watching early coverage of the Olympics, you’re already aware that there are two main clusters of venues (Coastal and Mountain). Curling is in the Coastal Cluster which is in the city of Gangneung. We will be staying on the coast. So today for me includes a drive to Toronto’s airport thanks to Lisa’s husband Robin and her in-laws (this trip is a family effort for all involved!), a 14 hour flight to Seoul, a two hour high speed train to Gangneung and then a ~4km transport to the hotel on the coast of the East Sea. Others who we will link up with in Toronto are coming in from Ottawa and Alberta. I’m pretty excited to see an Air Canada 777 filled with families, fans and even some athletes and support staff headed to the Olympics!
7:15 a.m. - The plane carrying much of the Ottawa crew pushes back from the gate and is bound for Toronto. As this group starts their trip, it’s already been a few days for Joanne’s family who arrived in South Korea a few days earlier. It’s been great to be able to get information and answers from this group on what we should bring or prepare to pack. The Canadian Olympic Committee also provides each of us with a very detailed manual and Curling Canada has been answering our questions throughout. Which reminds me, I still have to buy electrical adapters at the airport departures lounge. Hopefully?
8:20 a.m. - You know those sweet Team Homan pins we had specially made for family to give out to others at the Olympics? When you tightly pack six bags of them in your carry-on bag, you’re going to get them searched at security. A very friendly and curious CATSA agent asked what they were about and then asked if he could have one. “Maybe another for my buddy over there?”
10:30 a.m. - Passport? Check. Event passes? Check. Phone? In hand *repeat this check every 30 minutes for the last 24 hours*
11:09 a.m. - Boarding! A very full flight and conditions look decent. Row after row are families, partners of our team and fans! Intended to take a group shot or get some photos but my name got called to the gate counter and that turned out to be an error so I missed out on us getting a pre-boarding group shot. Maybe when we land in South Korea we will get something snapped. No wifi on this bird but will post updates once we land. Landing should be around 3 p.m. Monday Korea time (1 a.m. Monday Eastern).
12:03 p.m. ET - This is the only part of the trip where we don’t want ice. De-icing crews working to get AC61 ready for takeoff as we leave miserable weather behind. On the Olympic ice, Kaitlyn and John will be sliding around in the semi-final game of mixed doubles while we cross the Pacific. Wish we could be there to help Earle and Co. cheer loud but hoping for good news when we land.
12:20 p.m. - Wheels up! I’ll admit to a few goosebumps when the engines rolled up. We are off to the Olympics to support our friends/daughters/partners/nieces.
2:05 p.m. Korea time, the next day - Flying over Korea Bay and about 400 km from Seoul. It’s been a great flight. In mentally preparing for a 14 hour flight I probably overestimated the potential discomfort. That said, I’m not a competitor and I can’t imagine the impact this would have on their bodies. Rachel, Emma, Joanne, Lisa, Adam and later Cheryl made the trek just over a week ago. Their first stop was a few days in Japan to train and get adjusted. I wonder all of the things each sport federation and athlete learns from an Olympics that they then apply to the next one. It only rolls around every four years and for many competitors it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Curling has only been part of the modern Olympics five previous times, and only one time in this part of the world 20 years ago.
5:01 p.m. - We’ve arrived in Korea! Processes quickly at the airport. No issues with luggage and now we just wait for the KTX high speed train. This train should take two hours and bring us from here on the west coast to the east coast.
6:53 p.m. - We are now entering the 24th hour of travel. Somewhere between Seoul and Gangneung on the train in the dark.
10:37 p.m. - Arrived at our hotel at 8:30 p.m. and checked in. A unique place! Happy to connect with Earle and Maureen Morris to get all their advice which was greatly appreciated! Congratulated the proud parents and promptly headed to Canada Olympic House to cheer on Mikael Kingsbury win Canada’s second gold medal. Also, Canada Olympic House is amazing! Despite being registered as a minor, we finished the evening off with a couple of Canadian beverages.
Darren McEwen coordinates Team Homan's social media. He is a long-time friend of the team and will be in South Korea documenting the team's Olympic experience through social media and blogging.