February 13, 2018 9:04 am
Updated: February 19, 2018 5:34 pm

Canadian Olympics junkies keeping odd hours to catch live events

WATCH ABOVE: Becky Marsh has been as close to the Olympic action as anyone can get without traveling to Korea. She's watched every single event from the comfort of her home. Julia Wong reports.

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UPDATE: On Feb. 19, 2018, Canadian rugby star Jen Kish tweeted she was so moved by Global News’ story on Marsh, she decided to give the woman her opening ceremony jacket from the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio as a way of thanking her for supporting Canadian athletes.

Becky Marsh figures she’s slept an average of two hours a night since the Pyeongchang Olympics started.

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The diehard Olympics enthusiast from Spruce Grove, Alta., watches the Games daily from the time they start airing live in late afternoon until the wee hours of the morning, when she pulls the couch right in front of the TV and turns the volume down so she doesn’t wake up her husband or three kids.

READ MORE: Pyeongchang or PyeongChang — What’s the right way to spell the Olympic town?

“I nap on the couch for about 10-minute periods and literally watch the Olympics all night long,” says Marsh, who works from home.

“I have not missed an event, I have not missed a medal, I have seen them all. I know the channels and I flip back and forth, back and forth, back and forth so that I do not miss one live.”

With Korean Standard Time over a dozen hours ahead of this country’s times zones (in Alberta, it’s a 16-hour time difference), Olympics junkies in Canada have to stay up late or get up at the crack of dawn to catch events live.

READ MORE: Here’s what Canada did while you were sleeping on Day 4 of the 2018 Winter Olympics

Citing data from ratings tracker Numeris, the CBC said Monday that almost two-thirds of all Canadians (65 per cent) have tuned in to CBC/Radio-Canada’s coverage of Pyeongchang 2018, with a total of 23.4 million in Canada watching at least part of broadcasts across all English and French television network partners and digital streaming simulcasts on the CBC’s Olympics websites and its apps. The data was from Feb. 7-11.

READ MORE: About half of Canadians interested in Winter Olympics: Ipsos poll

For some, like Marsh, it’s a labour of love.

The 33-year-old says she’s watched every Games since she was a toddler and buys official Olympic clothing for her family to wear during the competition.

“It’s not the same getting it second-hand. It’s fantastic to watch them live and achieve their goals that they’ve worked so hard for,” she says, noting she played the Paralympic sport goalball for Team Canada for three years and knows the work and dedication that goes into such training.

“I think they’re amazing and I cheer like a fool, even if it’s three in the morning and I wake up my whole house, knowing that even if they’re half a world away and they can’t hear me, that I’m probably the loudest person cheering in the whole world.”

READ MORE: Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris win gold in curling mixed doubles

Lauren Simpson of Toronto is also a lifelong Olympics fan who has been juggling the odd Games hours with her day job and motherhood.

“It doesn’t matter the time, I watch every single event,” says the 51-year-old activities co-ordinator at a long-term care home.

“When it’s something that I love, I am more than happy and willing to wake up at whatever ridiculous time to see it live, because I don’t want to hear, ‘Oh, did you hear how this person did’ or ‘Yay, we won another medal.’ I really do prefer the experience watching it, whenever possible, live.”

On Sunday night and early Monday morning, Simpson had an added reason to tune in live: Her niece, Gabrielle Daleman of Newmarket, Ont., won the gold medal in the team figure skating competition.

Gabrielle Daleman of Canada competes in the Winter Olympics women\’s single skating free skating competition final in Gangneung, South Korea on February 12, 2018.

REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

“I’m a little bit tired but it’s an elated tired,” says Simpson, noting she functions well on four or five hours of sleep.

READ MORE: Canada’s first gold: Virtue, Moir reinforce top spot in team figure skating

“It’s such a short price to pay for being proud of Canada in everything that they do and their accomplishments. When a flag gets hoisted and I see someone winning a medal and they get to stand on that podium in front of thousands in person and millions on TV, there mustn’t be a better feeling in the world.

“It does sometimes bring me to tears, just the experience of watching them take it all in.”

Shireen Jeejeebhoy of Toronto is equally enthusiastic about the Games but is feeling the fatigue, noting “the odd hours are just really confusing and tiring.”

“The weird time zone differences kind of blur all of the events together and makes it difficult to know what day you’re in,” says the 55-year-old writer and photographer.

“I set my alarm for the opening ceremony so I wouldn’t miss anything…. I tried to do that the next day, do the same thing, but it’s very, very tiring to do that.

“So instead I seem to be staying up much later, like midnight, 1 a.m.”

Still, it’s worth it, adds Jeejeebhoy: “There’s an excitement and fear and thrill about watching live TV that you don’t get watching tape-delayed or packaged.”

READ MORE: Winter Olympics 2018 medal count results

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