National sports teams have avenues to fast-track visas and permits for athletes who qualify last minute for the Olympics, but it’s another story for those competitors’ parents.
In Whistler, Yuki Tsubota, Mercedes Nicoll and Crispin Lipscomb were all added late to the Olympic roster. Luckily, Tsubota’s mother, Hiromi, arranged her flights and papers well in advance of learning that her daughter, a slopestyle skier, would be going to Sochi after placing fifth at the U.S. Grand Prix contest in Park City, Utah, on Jan. 20.
“I have actually been processing all (my tickets and permits) just in case (Yuki) made it,” Hiromi said. “I think all the parents have to take a risk. Even the athletes that qualified last year had a chance of getting injured. If Yuki had not made it, I would just have had to cut (my losses).”
Until Sunday (Feb. 2), Hiromi was not 100 per cent sure that she could attend, but her determination to witness her daughter’s Olympic debut paid off. “I am definitely going to watch Yuki at Sochi,” she said in an email that morning.
While she has had her own travel confirmed for months, Yuki’s grandmother and cousin in Japan were able to book last minute flights and accommodations — as well as secure visas — just days after her qualification. “Prices were pretty high, but they found accommodation somehow and talked to the embassy to see what could be done for visas,” said Hiromi.
Nicoll, who is attending her third Olympics, will not have any family joining her in Sochi. Her parents have already seen her in action in both Turin and Vancouver and will be closely watching the action from the comfort of their home in B.C.
“(My parents) looked into it and they opted not to go this time,” said Nicoll. “I’m OK with it because I don’t won’t to have to worry about them while I’m over there. It was a lot easier in Canada. I’d rather them be safe at home. It’s all made for TV anyway. That’s what I told them.”
Among other local Olympic families, Marielle Thompson and Dave Duncan are each expected to have at least one family member on hand for their ski cross competitions in Sochi.
Security is on the mind of a lot of Canadians at these Olympics, most of all the parents of athletes. Hiromi acknowledged the recent terrorist activity in the North Caucasus, and is taking some comfort in knowing that athletes have added security, but she will attend to see Yuki’s Olympic dream realized nonetheless.
“I am concerned about Yuki, but at this point she’s going to be there, so I just have to pray that the security will be strong enough,” said Hiromi. “I realize not everything will go smoothly in Sochi, but I am willing to take those risks. I want to be there. I have to be there. Otherwise I will regret it for the rest of my life.”