It wasn’t easy for Jesse Williams to get back to the Olympics. The 2011 world champion in the high jump finished fourth at the U.S. Olympic Trials last month, but made it to London on a technicality when the third-place finisher didn’t meet the Olympic qualifying standard.
As tough as it is to get to the Olympics as an athlete, it might be just as tough to get there as the friend of one. Four of Williams’ friends from Broughton are flying to London with no tickets in hand and no guarantee they’ll actually get to see Williams compete.
Elliot Kahan went to Beijing with Williams’ family in 2008. This time, he’s bringing his wife, Gaya. They have tickets for the medal round, on Aug. 7, but the qualifications are Aug. 5, the same day as the 100-meter dash finals – perhaps the most sought-after ticket of the entire games.
Brian Oschwald and Seth Crossno don’t have tickets for either day, but they’re going anyway, hopeful they’ll be able to find tickets for sale there.
“It’s a once in a lifetime thing,” Crossno said. “I spent the last couple weeks traveling for work, and I kept hearing people talk about the Olympics. … It’s worth it to be able to say you did it 20, 30 years from now.”
Even if they can’t find tickets, it won’t be cheap. Oschwald and Crossno spent almost $1,000 each on their airline tickets, and they’ll stay with a friend of Oschwald’s sister who is spending the summer in London. All told, even with the free lodging, Oschwald and Crossno expect to spend upwards of $2,000 each on the one-week trip, whether they find tickets or not.
Oschwald said he’s looked at online brokers, but found some to be scams and others unable to guarantee tickets at this point. Crossno said a friend in the ticket business told him he could buy tickets for $350, but without any guarantee on the location, and they might be at the far end of the stadium from the high-jump pit.
“If me and Seth end up watching it at a pub in London, then we’ll just party with him and hang out with him afterward,” Oschwald said. “But I really would like to be there for the actual gold-medal event.”
There’s certainly every expectation Williams will be in the mix. Although he failed to advance out of qualifying in Beijing four years ago, he has won two American championships and the 2011 world championship since, and only two Americans have ever jumped higher.
Williams made it to the Kahans’ wedding in 2010 despite his globe-trotting schedule, so when he squeaked through the trials, they were willing to put in the effort to return the favor.
“I told him, if you make the Olympics, I’ll definitely be there,” Elliot Kahan said. “And I won’t leave my wife behind, because I’ve heard about that for four years.”
Oschwald was on the verge of going to China, but had very little confidence he’d be able to get tickets, so he pulled the plug on the flights and hotels he had lined up. His confidence is only slightly higher this time around, but his resolve is significantly strengthened.
“Over the last four years, I’ve had time to think about it, and I told myself, if he makes London, I’m going,” Oschwald said. “It’s not every day you get to see a longtime friend compete in the Olympics. I told myself I’m going for sure.”
Williams found his way into the Olympics even after he thought all was lost. His friends will try to follow his lead.
DeCock: email@example.com, (919) 829-8947, Twitter: @LukeDeCock