PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA – The bus driver pulled into the designated spot and then started motioning to the bus parked behind us.
He spoke little English, but he was animated as he tried to relay something to us.
“Forty-five,” he said. Then he stood up and pointed to the other bus.
“Five minutes,” he said.
There were only three media members on the bus, including myself. I was returning to the media village after attending a news conference for Afton’s Jessie Diggins the morning after she made Olympic history in women’s cross-country skiing.
Next it was back to the coastal cluster for the U.S.-Canada women’s hockey gold medal game later that morning.
Our bus made a quick pit stop at the IBC complex, which was the normal route. Our driver kept trying to tell us something, but we were confused.
“Forty-five,” he said, then pointing to the bus parked behind us, “Five minutes.”
Finally, with help from another media member, we figured it out: The other bus was leaving right away.
It was 10:40 a.m. Our bus was scheduled to leave at 10:45. The other one would arrive at a location not far from our drop-off five minutes sooner.
I smiled. Apparently, my reputation as someone who gets to places — particularly airports — entirely too early had made its way to South Korea.
That scene perfectly encapsulated my Olympic experience. The Korean people were incredibly generous hosts in making sure these Games ran with precision while treating visitors with warmth and kindness. And once we arrived at our desired venues, Minnesota’s Olympians stole the show.
The beauty of covering the Olympics is that on any day, at any venue, you’re liable to see something truly unique and memorable. The final four days of competition, Wednesday through Saturday, were extraordinary even by Olympic standards, if viewed from our own local perspective.
Being asked to pick a favorite moment is like trying to choose one Maldives Island to visit. There is no wrong answer.
First, Lindsey Vonn became the oldest woman (33) to win an Olympic Alpine medal with bronze in the downhill.
Later that day, Diggins provided a finish for the ages in the women’s team sprint by overtaking Sweden’s Stina Nilsson on the final straightaway with a push that was fueled by guts. Diggins and teammate Kikkan Randall became the first American women in Olympic history to medal in cross-country, and the first Americans period to win gold.
On Thursday, the U.S. women’s hockey team filled with Minnesotans ended 20 years of heartbreak by dethroning four-time defending gold medalist Canada in an Olympic final decided by a shootout.
Finally, on Saturday, the men’s curling team, the pride of northern Minnesota, completed a remarkable comeback led by skip John Shuster to claim gold for the first time in Olympic history.
It was as if the Minnesotans kept saying to each other, “Oh yeah, well top this.”
These weren’t just wins. They were nail-biters that took spectators on a thrill ride to history.
I leave here with a deep sense of gratitude having witnessed so much of it from a front-row seat. Never will those moments be taken for granted, or erased from memory by time.
That’s what the Olympics represent: a collection of memories, from dramatic to mundane, that all make for a wonderful experience.
I’ll remember sitting in a small hockey arena as North Korean cheerleaders performed synchronized cheers in the stands while the sister of North Korea leader Kim Jong Un, the president of South Korea and the president of the International Olympic Committee sat 100 feet below me.
I’ll remember interviewing a bunch of fascinating athletes in sports that I’m rarely exposed to — from Shaun White, to ski jumpers, to St. Paul native Akuoma Omeoga, who competed for the Nigerian bobsled team in that country’s debut in the Winter Olympics.
I’ll remember bus rides down the mountain and eating a glorious combination of beef jerky and Pringles for dinner far too many nights because the schedule didn’t allow for anything else.
There are far too many other memories to mention. Mostly, I’ll remember those four days when Minnesota athletes stole the show with one riveting performance after another.
Chip Scoggins firstname.lastname@example.org