It is often said, even over-used, that athletes competing in the Olympics (along with their families) had a long journey to get to the Games. Most of the time, people mean it figuratively. But, in the case of Mischa Gasser’s father, Huwiler, it’s literal.
His son Mischa was competing in men’s aerials in PyeongChang, and Huwiler needed a way to get there. He didn’t choose the traditional option of a flight, or a train, or even a car.
For the past year, Huwiler, his wife Rita Ruttimann and his dad have been cycling from Switzerland to PyeongChang. That details riding through Europe and into Iran, Pakistan, Thailand and Vietnam, eventually arriving in South Korea.
The impressive feat doesn’t surprise Gasser.
"He was crazy all the time," said Gasser, having qualified for Sunday’s aerials final with a score of 121.72 points. "He would do stuff like that his entire life. He decided he wanted to do a bike tour, and he decided he was going to go to the Olympics.
Gasser’s father rode through 20 countries in 12 months. The journey required biking almost 10,565 miles (17,000km). They rode through mountains and even on the infamous Pamir Highway. They had to climb terrain approximately 15,275 feet above sea level. That’s equivalent to about 10 Empire State Buildings stacked on top of each other.
"My dad is crazy," Gasser said. "But he was (also) a sky diver at a younger age. It's coming from somewhere, I don’t know where. (Aerials is) just what I have to do."
It’s easy to make the connection between Gasser’s adventurous dad and Gasser, who competes in a sport known for its crazy jumps. Gasser sees the connection too.
"Definitely," he said. "Otherwise you won't go 15 meters in the air, doing three flips and four twists and landing into snow. That's just ridiculous."
Most people would be done after a trip like Huwiler’s, but then again, Huwiler isn’t most people. The 55-year-old is planning an equally hard trip home. It’ll take another year to complete.
"He's going to go to Japan," Gasser detailed. "Then he's flying back home because he needs a visa for China and Russia. He (will fly) back to Japan, cycle to Russia and China and back to Switzerland.
Gasser will need to channel his dad on Sunday. He made the final of the men’s aerials competition after a tough qualifying round that didn’t even see the reigning gold medalist advance.
"It's just insane, the boys are throwing down," he said. "It was tough the whole week, and if it's tough the whole week, it means pretty much every single time it's going to be a hard event.
"(In the final) it's going to be everybody throwing their best jumps. It's crazy."
While Gasser attempts to do jumps that are against human nature, perhaps he can find some inspiration from his dad who pushed his body to new heights.