Operation get to South Korea: One room, two weeks, three meals and four walls.
Arriving in South Korea after a fairly empty flight and straightforward journey, I hit the tarmac and for the first time in my life, I put my feet on Asian soil!
Having spent most of my time this summer in lockdown and battling restrictions, with the very real possibility there could be no season at all, there was a feeling of huge relief but also a little bit of surreality that I am actually able to be here and about to get down to doing what I'm supposed to be doing. Sliding.
The amount of planning and contingency that has gone into this summer was like nothing I could have expected pre-covid (let’s picture the cheesy iceberg success image below).
Planning a season on a good day is enough of a challenge but with the added spice of uncertainty and the possibility of contracting a deadly virus… I’m pretty sure I can add extensive risk planning to my CV. I was glad to have the help of my family and mentors to achieve this.
So, what was it like in quarantine on the other side of the world?
Step 1 - Try not to get chased down by the police (oops)
The rules around getting into South Korea at the moment are pretty tough - and rightly so. They’ve done a better job than most at keeping coronavirus under control. It took about an hour to get through the entry process fairly smoothly with temp checks and having all the official documents signed off.
I had only been in the country for an hour before I got chased down by the police! Oops.
They thought I was an escape attempt. There was a roped-off waiting area for everyone who was going to a government facility that is watched over by the police. I asked if I could go to the bathroom and then to the convenience store to get some snacks. They said yes and I went about my errands. I remembered after the bathroom they didn’t have any Korean Won in Heathrow so I needed to grab some cash. Casually strolling toward the cash machine (which was in the direction of the exit) suddenly, I had two guys chasing me down from different directions telling me to stop.
It was ok though, I explained I was going to the cash machine - which was all fine. But I gained a shadow for the rest of my mini-expedition.
Step 2 - Play the hotel lottery
You need to do two weeks of quarantine in a government-run facility or “corona hotel” and at your own expense.
Getting on the bus, you have no idea where you are going. They don’t give you the name of the hotel, hence the coin "hotel lottery." We pulled up at the Grand Hyatt in Incheon. The golden ticket!
Greeted by the lovely up-your-nose corona test. If it comes back positive, you are sent to a hospital to be looked after until you recover. Mine came back negative, so the Grand Hyatt was my home for the next two weeks.
I shifted my tonne of kit from A-B but one of the hotel staff stepped in to give me a hand! Room 558 awaited.
Step 3 - Quarantime
I made a little wish that I would have a window, bathtub, space to workout, nice desk space and a comfy bed and decent food. I had lucked out. My room was spacious and a pleasant place, if you had to choose 2 weeks within four walls.
It meant it was time for an inventive training plan! Ben and Adam stepped up as usual and put together something really good that kept me moving in my hotel room.
The first few days were great. I got into a good routine and after the amount of craziness that had gone into getting here, I was exhausted. I used the two weeks to take a chance to rest after a tough block of training and mental effort around planning but to get stuff done that needed to be done.
Food was delivered to your door 3 times a day with your meal, water and some snacks. There were some really tasty meals and some that weren’t up my street; breakfasts were a bit out of my comfort zone.
Day 8-10 was a grind. The novelty really wore off by that point.
Day 11-14 something a bit like acceptance kicked in. Psychologists would have a field day!
Step 4 - FREEDOM
It never tasted so sweet. After two weeks in confinement, it felt oddly overwhelming to face the outside world again. I hauled my tonnes of bags for the final stage of my journey and made my way to Pyeongchang-gun.
I arrived at 11:00 and was asked if I was ready for a track walk at 12:30. Four hours after getting out of quarantine, I was back on my sled for the first slides of the season at a brand new track. I think that must me a record of some kind.
I have to say a big thank you to my family, my boyfriend, coaches, mentors and friends who kept me company with video calls throughout the day. I wasn’t lonely for a second.
I also had the lovely opportunity to do a school talk with Hayovel High School in Herzilya, Israel, where I spoke to 70 students between the age of 14-16 who are involved in sport. I hope that sharing my story of overcoming challenges will motivate them to continue chasing their passion during these crazy times.
Go Fund Me
I have launched a Go Fund Me campaign to support my dream of qualifying the first-ever female skeleton athlete to slide for Israel at the Winter Olympics and my target is Beijing 2022. All donations large or small are gratefully received and every pound/dollar/shekel is rumoured to add more KPHs in the track!