10,000m Runner Shows Up at Winter Olympics By Mistake

 istockphoto.com

istockphoto.com

Among the thousands of Olympic athletes from around the world who have converged on PyeongChang, South Korea this week, one showed up early—by nearly two and a half years.

He was also in the wrong place, by 640 miles.

"My face is red, for sure," said Kaarlo Uskela, a runner on Finland's national team. 

Uskela, who specializes in the 10,000 meters, is expected to compete at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Those Games begin July 24, 2020. PyeongChang, of course, is hosting the Winter Games, which do not include running. The opening ceremony is Friday.

"I knew that, of course," Uskela told Dumb Runner in an exclusive interview. "But, you know, they're both in Asia. Which is confusing."

Uskela traced the scheduling snafu back to "an evening at home, a few months ago."

"I was just chilling after a workout, watching TV," he said, "and the news mentioned  PyeongChang." 

"Maybe I was only half-listening, or sort of foggy from my workout," he recalled. "Whatever the reason, I just heard the word Olympics and assumed this was, you know, my Olympics."

"I thought, Oh, I'd better book my flight. So I did."

After several weeks of intense training, Uskela said, he packed for his trip and boarded a flight from Helsinki to South Korea's Yangyang International Airport. It was there, he said, that he realized his mistake. 

"I was at the baggage carousel, waiting for my luggage," said Uskela. "There was lots of Olympics signage around the airport, which had me pretty pumped up."

Then, Uskela said, he noticed a group of five or six athletes at a nearby carousel. They were wearing Japanese team parkas—and carrying skis.

"That's when it hit me," he said. "I was just like, F*******k."

Now that he's there, Uskela said, he'll probably hang around to see a few events.

"I might as well, right?" he said. "Wish I'd brought some warmer clothes, though. It's cold here."