This story was originally published on December 4, 2017
It’s safe to say Rob Isbell is one of biggest Olympic fans you’ll ever meet.
At his mom’s house in Arlington, Texas he set up a table covered in Olympics swag he’s collected over the years — both online, and in person — while watching the best athletes in the world compete in person.
The collection includes colorful hats, valuable pins, jackets, stuffed mascots, and even the Olympic torch he ran with around the Ballpark in Arlington before the 2002 games in Salt Lake City.
“In Beijing there were some events I did not have tickets to,” said Isbell. “And so I had a friend write in Chinese, ‘2002 Olympic torch relay runner needs one ticket. Please help. Thank you.”‘
The plan worked, and got him in to watch women’s gymnastics. Isbell has 11 Olympic games under his belt.
His first were the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, all because he called into a radio station at the right time.
“They said you are the 95th caller and you’ve won the trip,” said Isbell.
He decided to attend the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta after that, and when he heard the next summer games would be in Australia he started planning that trip as well. That passion continued, and Isbell started going to consecutive games, both winter and summer.
He says nothing compares to being there and experiencing it all in person.
“Especially if you’re in a foreign country and an American wins, and you hear the Star-Spangled Banner in a foreign country,” said Isbell while getting choked up. “That’s really exciting.”
PyeongChang will be his twelfth Olympic games. In fact, Isbell has already posed for pictures in their Olympic Park when he traveled to South Korea back in July.
Taking a trip to the host country before the games is a tradition so he can get all the touristy stuff out of the way and fully focus on the competitions.
Isbell also set a personal record in Rio. He went to 33 events, and is hoping to cover just as much ground in South Korea.
Web Extra: See Rob Isbell’s snap shots from South Korea