McFarland native reflects on experience at 2018 Winter Games, witnessing history

McFarland native reflects on experience at 2018 Winter Games, witnessing history

The weeks leading up to the 2018 Winter Games were filled with headlines about safety concerns, low attendance and facility readiness.

But when McFarland native Brett Decker headed to South Korea for the 2018 Olympics, none of those concerns were on his mind. Decker said the games were a refreshing way for everyone to cast aside their differences and make once-in-a-lifetime memories.

Decker is friends with Nina Roth, an Olympic curler. He made the 14-hour flight to Pyeongchang with Roth’s family to cheer her on, along with McFarland native Matt Hamilton, the gold medal-winning Olympic curler from his hometown.

“When you’re there, you’re talking to all these people from all these countries, and it seems like we’re all from the same place,” Decker explained. “Everyone’s got all these stories to share, all these memories, and it’s so exciting to hear about these other countries that I want to start traveling the world more.”

Decker said that people from other countries tended to assume that Americans were full of themselves, but once he started talking to them, they quickly became friends.

Weather concerns also plagued this year’s games. Notably, how cold and windy it was. Being from Wisconsin, Decker assured that it really wasn’t much different than a Wisconsin winter.

Decker said he was surprised at how affordable everything was at this year’s games. Tickets to the curling events were about $40. A souvenir snow globe cost him just $10.

The higher-demand events, such as figure skating, cost a lot more: around $150 a ticket for nosebleed seats. The women’s hockey team’s gold medal match, which Decker attended, set him back around $250.

But Decker called the trip an experience of a lifetime, and one where he was able to witness history multiple times.

“It was just this huge excitement that it’s just so hard to explain,” Decker said. “You feel every emotion at once. First, seeing your country win, and then realizing it’s your state and your local hometown winning this huge event, it’s just so hard to put into words.”

Decker said that besides the competition, one of the best part of the games was meeting people from different countries.

Because of a 2014 doping scandal, Russian athletes weren’t able to compete on behalf of their country. Decker met some Russian fans, who had brought Russian flags to fly during events but were unable to do so because of the Olympic ban. Decker said his conversations with them were among the most memorable because they were so similar to Americans, despite all that’s been said about Russia lately.