By Joo Kyung-don
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea, Feb. 14 (Yonhap) -- Parents of athletes come from many countries to see their children compete at the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games but not like Guido Huwiler, who traveled 17,000 kilometers on a bike to see his son's performance in South Korea.
Guido and his wife, Rita Ruttimann, started their bike tour in March 2017 from Olten, Switzerland, to see Mischa Gasser, a Swiss athlete who will compete in the men's aerials at the 23rd Winter Games in PyeongChang, 180 kilometers east of Seoul.
The family finally met up on Tuesday at Phoenix Snow Park, the venue for freestyle skiing and snowboarding events at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
"I'm happy to see my son and we made it," Guido said. "It was fantastic."
Guido and Rita went through 20 countries by bike to arrive in PyeongChang. They did take an airplane during their trip, though, due to border control issues.
"From Kazakhstan, we couldn't get into China, so we took a plane to go to Southeast Asia," Guido said. "Then we took another plane from there to South Korea."
Guido and Rita landed in South Korea on Saturday and rode their bicycles to the alpine town of PyeongChang, a place notorious for strong winds and cold weather. They said they slept in hotels or motels along the way, or even in a tent if there weren't any. Now, they are staying in a hotel in PyeongChang.
"Here it was really cold," Rita, 58, said. "We were in Southeast Asia where temperature is like 30 degrees Celsius, but here minus 10 and 15 -- it was really difficult."
But Guido, 56, said the toughest time in their journey was traveling along the Pamir Highway, one of the highest roads in the world, in Central Asia.
"It was the Pamir Highway that brought us to some 4,750 meters above sea level," he said. "Thin air, lack of good food ... it was (an) exhausting situation."
Gasser, who grabbed his Olympic spot at the last minute, knew Guido and Rita would make it.
"His trip is not normal, but that's how he is," Gasser said. "I was more sure that he's going to make it than I'm going to make it for the Olympics."
Guido and Rita will continue their trip after watching Gasser's performance in the aerials on Saturday and hopefully Sunday if he qualifies. They will then go to Japan before returning to Switzerland to plan their next bicycle tour.
"It was our dream and it's not finished yet," Rita said. "We want to cycle the world. I'm not tired. I'm happy that I can do something that I love."
When asked why they are doing this, Guido said he just loves to travel.
"I love experiencing the world with a physical experience," he said. "And the only way to do that is by a foot or by a bicycle, which you can experience how the world is made by mountains and valleys."
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