Highland Park couple to see son skate in Sochi
Steve and Marla Brown are excited to watch their figure-skating son Jason compete in the Winter Olympics.
But they weren't content to watch the Sochi Games at home.
The Highland Park residents -- and 16 relatives -- will cheer Jason from seats in the skating arena, making an estimated 15-hour journey to Russia to watch him compete live.
In telephone interviews before they departed this week, the couple sounded jubilant.
"I think when we're sitting at that opening ceremony, watching with our binoculars, watching him walk in, (that's when) it'll sink in," Steve Brown said.
"We're still just so in shock," Marla Brown said. "It's hard to believe we're really going to the Olympics to watch our son compete and represent our country."
Just 19 years old, Jason Brown is competing in his first Olympic Games. The 2013 Highland Park High School graduate will skate in individual and team events.
He'll be eligible for two medals. But whether he wins those sought-after prizes doesn't matter to his folks.
"He's already won because he's going," Steve Brown said.
Jason's siblings, grandparents, aunts and other relatives also are traveling to Sochi.
The Browns regularly attend Jason's international competitions as part of a group, although the members change.
"Somebody always seems to join us," Steve Brown said.
Lisa Malvin, a cousin, will be among the relatives leaving next week for Sochi.
"We're freaking out. We are pretty excited about it," said Malvin, who grew up in Northbrook and is a graduate student at Northwestern University.
She said family members have traveled to Turkey and Italy in the past to watch Jason compete. Malvin added that family members hope to visit with him after his events have concluded.
Steve and Marla Brown said they've also got tickets to a short-track speedskating event and women's hockey, where they'll cheer for Buffalo Grove's Megan Bozek, 22, a Stevenson High School graduate.
"We want to be there to support her family," Steve Brown said. "We'll be yelling loudly."
Tom and Patti Bozek will be at the Opening Ceremony and every U.S. women's hockey team game. Their sons, Stephen, 24, and Dan, 27, will be at the Olympics for the second week.
The days leading up to the Browns' departure were emotional.
"I'm telling you, we haven't stopped crying," Marla Brown said.
Marla Brown said her son is "over-the-top excited" about the Olympics. He left early for some final training and preparations in Munich.
"I hope he experiences it with all the joy he shows in his skating," she said.
Members of the Brown and Bozek families had mixed feelings about security during the Olympics.
Steve Brown said he isn't concerned. He expects Sochi will be one of the safest places on the planet during the games -- in part because the Russians don't have the same regard for personal liberties as we do in the U.S.
If security personnel see someone they think doesn't belong at an event, Brown said, they'll remove the subject.
"I honestly believe it's going to be very safe," he said.
Malvin said she is trying not to worry about safety issues.
"We know it's really bad over there, but we're not going to not go," she said. "We have to go; he's in the Olympics. We figure that if the athletes are safe, we'll be OK."
Tom Bozek said he is "not worried about security" but instead is "unsure about money exchange, logistics, language and getting around."
His wife admitted she'd be lying if she said she wasn't nervous.
"I'm trying to not let the nerves get the best of me and take away any of the excitement of seeing Megan compete in the Olympic Games," she said. "I am nervous about the unknowns of traveling to Russia. Once I am with all the families, we will conquer the unknowns together."
For skating fans who want to root for Jason Brown but didn't travel to Sochi, the Centennial Ice Arena in Highland Park will host a viewing party from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 14.
The event will include Olympic coverage, refreshments and an open skate. It's free and open to the public. The arena is at 3100 Trailway St.