Olympic hopefuls and their families worry about tensions in North Korea

Ottawa-area athletes destined for the winter Olympics in six months, and their families, are watching and worrying about rising tensions in North Korea.

'We don't want anything to happen to her,' says speedskater Ivanie Blondin's father

Speedskater Ivanie Blondin's parents are worried about her safety competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics because of rising tension in North Korea. (Mikhail Metzel/Associated Press)

Ottawa-area athletes destined for the upcoming winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea — and their families —  are watching and worrying about rising tensions in nearby North Korea. 

Our biggest concern is Ivanie.- Bob Blondin, Olympian's father

U.S. President Donald Trump issued a warning Friday that American weapons are being "locked and loaded."

The remark aimed at North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un is the latest in an escalating war of words. It follows North Korea's latest series of missile and nuclear weapons tests along with the recent threat to strike the U.S. territory of Guam, home to more than 160,000 people.

Bob Blondin, says he's having mixed feelings about his daughter Ivanie Blondin competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics. The long-track speed skater from Ottawa pre-qualified for the 300-metre race.

"Our biggest concern is Ivanie," said Blondin. "We don't want anything to happen to her. Should she go or not? It's [her] decision."

'Should she go or not?'

South Korea and the U.S. are proceeding with plans for a large-scale military exercise, expected to run at the end of August. It's meant to act as a deterrent against North Korean aggression.
Bob Blondin says he's not much of a traveller and won't be going to South Korea to watch daughter Ivanie compete. He worries about safety. (Facebook)

Blondin is watching the developments closely with hopes that tensions defuse. He worries the Olympics could become a target and isn't planning on going to South Korea. He isn't a big traveler to begin with, he said, and plans to cheer his daughter on from home.

"It's too bad it's there," he said. "We always say, 'Why do they pick these countries to have the Olympics?'"

Blondin wonders if the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) has come up with contingency plans if problems abroad worsen. 

Tim Leslie, whose son John is a snowboarder on the Canadian Paralympic team, worries about the volatile situation in South Korea ahead of the Winter Games. (Ashley Burke/CBC)

Tim Leslie's son John is a Paralympic snowboarder. John lost his leg to cancer at the age of 10. Now 25, he's set to compete for Canada in PyeongChang. But John's dad, despite being a former pilot with the Canadian military during the conflict in Bosnia, worries.

"When two countries are talking about nuclear weapons being thrown at each other it really does make you pause," Tim said.

He's also hoping there's a contingency plan to move the venue if tensions around South Korea reach a fever pitch.

"If you don't start making alternative plans now, a lot of athletes will be left with no Winter Olympics. And there are other venues that can be used." 

Safety is the first priority

The head of the COC, Chris Overholt, said they're monitoring the situation in North Korea closely, but not changing plans at this point.

"We work closely with the Government of Canada, the host nation, the RCMP and other security agencies to ensure the safest and most secure environment possible for our athletes," Overholt wrote in a statement to CBC News.

"The Government of Canada has issued no travel restriction to South Korea and we have routinely done site visits to the country over the last several years," he added. 

'No one is going to rain on my parade'

Some parents say they're not letting tensions abroad stand in the way of watching their kids fulfill their dreams.

We have 200 Olympic moms banding together and saying, 'You're not going to ruin our parade.'- Lucille De Haître, mother of Olympic speedskater Vincent De Haître

Lucille De Haître didn't go to Sochi to watch her son, Ottawa speed skater Vincent De Haître, compete in his first Olympics in 2014. Nothing is stopping her if he qualifies in January, she said.

"No one is going to rain on my parade this time," said De Haître. 

She's been joking with friends that the leader of North Korea should worry more about the threat of angry Olympic parents than Trump. 

"We have 200 Olympic moms banding together and saying, 'You're not going to ruin our day,'" De Haître said. "He should worry about that." 

Lucille De Haître stayed home when her son competed in Sochi. She's not letting that happen again and has no worries about South Korea after hearing how well athletes at the last Olympics were taken care of. (Submitted)

'It's not in the front of my mind'

Prescott, Ont., figure skater Alaine Chartrand said what's happening in North Korea isn't her main focus right now. She's busy training to qualify for the Olympics and knows the games often face safety issues. For example, the Sochi Olympics in Russia were surrounded by gay rights protests. 

Threat of nuclear warfare is scary.- Alaine Chartrand, Olympic hopeful

"I'm not really too worried yet," Chartrand said. "But, obviously that is something that is worrisome. Threat of nuclear warfare is scary. But that's far away … It's not in the front of my mind."

Prescott figure skater Alaine Chartrand says the tension in North Korea is not at the front of her mind. She's busy training to qualify in January for the 2018 Winter Olympics. (Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press)