CODY, Wyo. — Cody Middle School teacher Brandon Undeberg didn't expect to be chosen as a Special Olympics coach for Team USA when he applied for the first time in June.
He received a call with the offer just over a month later and the journey to South Korea began.
"It's a heck of an opportunity," Undeberg said. "I did not anticipate it."
Undeberg became the head coach for the winter sports Special Olympics program in Cody three years ago. He said the process of becoming coach and getting to know the local athletes has been a "whirlwind."
"To them it's a bigger part of life," he said.
The Special Olympics in South Korea brought even more athletes into his life.
Wyoming sent four competitors to the games, while Undeberg, who served as an Alpine skiing coach, was looking out for one Wyoming athlete, two Colorado athletes and one North Dakota athlete once they arrived at the launch point in Los Angeles.
They weren't complete strangers. The group spent a week in New York getting to know each other before the journey began.
"There was a lot of bonding going on there," Undeberg said.
The group of 151 U.S. athletes made their way to Los Angeles on Jan. 24 and flew to South Korea the next day. They wouldn't return back to the U.S. until Feb. 7.
The Special Olympics were hosted in Pyeongchang, and the athletes spent six days on the snow.
The week started by making sure the athletes were in the right division to compete, and then the competition began.
"It was a blast," Undeberg said. "It was a full-packed schedule but it was a blast."
Undeberg said the sportsmanship at the game is something you never see out of professional athletes. He said he had an athlete get hurt and need stitches, but a little while later he felt a hug from behind because she didn't want to leave her team.
"They know what's at stake, but if another athlete goes down they're not going to be cheering because they went down, they are going to be cheering to get them back up," he said. "It's so pure. It's what sportsmanship is all about."
The culture also had a few moments of shock. Undeberg, who has only been to Canada outside the U.S., said the group was a little sheltered because it was so large, but it didn't stop them from noticing the differences.
There was high-rise housing, constant traffic, and surprisingly very few animals despite a similar mountainous terrain, Undeberg said.
Eating noodles, salad and fish for breakfast was another drastic change.
"The food was the biggest shock to me," Undeberg said.
The athletes had a few special guests visit them on the trip. Former NBA star Yao Ming, from China, served the group breakfast one day.
"They brought in a lot of people to make the experience unique," Undeberg said.
Undeberg returned home to wife Jessica and their two children Feb. 8.
"It was a short amount of time but I'm never going to forget these athletes," he said.