February 15, 2018 / 11:44 AM / 3 months ago

Swiss couple cycle 17,000 kms to watch son compete

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) - A year and 17,000 kms later, a Swiss couple arrived in Pyeongchang this week to watch their son compete in the Winter Olympics.

The father and step-mother of Swiss freestyle skier Mischa Gasser left their home in Olten, 70 kms west of Zurich, in February last year to cycle across the world.

They arrived in Pyeongchang on Tuesday after journey that took them through 20 countries.

“To arrive here and see my son waiting for us. We were really touched. I had no words,” Guido Huwiler, 55, told Reuters Television.

Huwiler, who sported a long bushy beard, and Rita Ruttimann, 57, said cycling every day was difficult.

Their toughest challenge was traveling the Pamir Highway which can reach more that 4,000 metres in height as it crosses several countries in Central Asia.

“We were really tired afterward. We were finished and had to recover for two to three weeks,” he said.

Guido Huwiler and his wife Rita Ruettimann speak during an interview with Reuters in Pyeongchang, South Korea, February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

When they reached the Chinese border, Huwiler said he was refused a visa because of his beard. He refused to cut it but they are hoping to travel through China later in the journey.

In South Korea, the couple camped outdoors in sub-zero temperatures en route to Pyeongchang’s Phoenix Park, the venue for Gasser’s freestyle skiing event.

Huwiler said his 26-year-old son had dreamed of competing in the Olympics since he was four or five years old.

“I think it’s most important that he lives his dream and I just wish to be close to him when he gets this moment,” Huwiler said.

After cheering on Gasser, the cyclists will continue through South Korea before flying to Japan. From there they plan to return to Switzerland to get visas for China, Russia and Mongolia before resuming their adventure.

Slideshow (4 Images)

“We are crazy!,” Huwiler said with a laugh.

Additional reporting by Hyun Oh, editing by Darren Schuettler and Ed Osmond

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