US Olympic athletes largely unfazed by security concerns ahead of Winter Games

Pyeongchang, South Korea, is closer to Pyongyang -- the North Korean capital city with a similar-sounding name -- than New York City is to Boston. This close proximity has caused quite a bit of worry, especially stateside, as Pyeongchang prepares to host the 2018 Winter Olympics beginning in February.

Political tensions have been on the rise around the globe concerning North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un, and his arsenal of ballistic and nuclear weapons. The two Koreas are technically still at war after a conflict in the 1950s ended only with a truce, and United States President Donald Trump seems to consistently be in a battle of words with the secretive Kim. 

SEE ALSO: Olympic athletes reveal what motivates them ahead of 2018 Games

As recently as December, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley warned that American athletes may not even attend the 2018 Games due to threats from North Korea. 

This rising global tension is certainly not lost on athletes who will soon head to the region to compete for the gold.

Snowboarder Jamie Anderson, who won the first-ever slopestyle gold for the U.S. in 2014, told AOL.com that while she views her upcoming trip to North Korea's neighboring country as "scary," she believes international politics shouldn't cause too much of an issue. 

"Safety at the Olympics is always a bit of a scare," said Anderson. "I think it's pretty scary, but I trust that we have really good security."

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South Korea conducts anti-terror drills ahead of Olympics
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South Korea conducts anti-terror drills ahead of Olympics
Members of Special Weapon and Tactics (SWAT) take part in a security drill, ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium, the venue for the opening and closing ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
A South Korean police officer takes part in a security drill ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium, the venue for the opening and closing ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Vehicles explode during a security drill ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium, venue for the opening and closing ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
South Korean police officers take part in a security drill ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium, the venue for the opening and closing ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Members of Special Weapon and Tactics (SWAT) take part in a security drill ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium, the venue for the opening and closing ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Members of the South Korean Special Warfare Command take part in a security drill ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium, the venue for the opening and closing ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
South Korean government safety officers and firefighters take part in a security drill ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium, the venue for the opening and closing ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Members of Special Weapon and Tactics (SWAT) take part in a security drill ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium, the venue for the opening and closing ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
South Korean firefighters take part in a security drill ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium, the venue for the opening and closing ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Members of Special Weapon and Tactics (SWAT) take part in a security drill ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium, the venue for the opening and closing ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Members of Special Weapon and Tactics (SWAT) and the Special Warfare Command take part in a security drill ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium, the venue for the opening and closing ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
A South Korean police officer takes part in a security drill ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium, the venue for the opening and closing ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
A South Korean army helicopter flies over the Olympic Stadium, the venue for the opening and closing ceremony during a security drill ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Members of Special Weapon and Tactics (SWAT) take part in a security drill ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium, the venue for the opening and closing ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Members of the Special Warfare Command take part in a security drill ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium, the venue for the opening and closing ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
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Three-time Olympic curler John Shuster echoed Anderson's comments. 

"I know how closely the State Department works with the [United States Olympic Committee]," he said of his experience at previous Winter Games. "They have always taken incredibly good care of us. They wouldn't send us somewhere where they have any concern."

After months of speculation, North Korea recently agreed to send a team of athletes (and their cheer squad) to the Games in Pyeongchang. President Trump supported the move, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in credited the commander-in-chief with helping to push the decision forward. 

However, the athletes understand that the president's tumultuous relationship with North Korea is one of the reasons many are worried. 

"People's awareness is heightened because of our current administration," said snowboarder Alex Deibold, "but the Koreans don't live in that daily fear or that worry." 

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South Korea plans for 2018 Olympics
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South Korea plans for 2018 Olympics
An ice sculpture of the Olympic rings is seen during the Pyeongchang Winter Festival, near the venue for the opening and closing ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, February 10, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
The Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre is seen in Pyeongchang, South Korea, October 30, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
The Olympic Plaza, the venue for the opening and closing ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games, is seen in Pyeongchang, South Korea, October 30, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
A man walks past the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics mascot Soohorang and Paralympics mascot Bandabi at Phoenix Snow Park, the venue for Parallel Giant Slalom, Slopestyle, Moguls and Aerials, in Pyeongchang, South Korea, October 30, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Images of former winter olympic mascots are displayed on the wall of a house in the town on Hoenggye near the venue of the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic games, in Pyeongchang on October 31, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
A general view shows the biathlon venue of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic games near the Alpensia resort in Pyeongchang on October 31, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA - OCTOBER 30, 2017: A view of Alpensia Ski Jumping Stadium that is to host ski jumping events during the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. Stanislav Varivoda/TASS (Photo by Stanislav Varivoda\TASS via Getty Images)
An aerial photo shows a general view of the bobsleigh and luge venues of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic games in Pyeongchang on October 31, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
An aerial photo shows a general view of the Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium venue of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic games, in the town of Hoenggye on October 31, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
The mascot for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics Soohorang is seen during the Pyeongchang Winter Festival, near the venue for the opening and closing ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, February 10, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
An ice sculpture of the Olympic rings is seen during the Pyeongchang Winter Festival, near the venue for the opening and closing ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, February 10, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A photo taken on October 30, 2017 shows a general view of the Gangneung Hockey Centre ice hockey venue of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic games, in Gangneung. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
A photo taken on October 30, 2017 shows a general view of the Gangneung Oval speed skating venue of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic games, in Gangneung. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA - OCTOBER 30, 2017: A view of the Pyeongchang 2018 logo by the Olympic Stadium. Stanislav Varivoda/TASS (Photo by Stanislav Varivoda\TASS via Getty Images)
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Several athletes cited concerns at previous Olympics that were ultimately fruitless, including terror threats in London, the Zika virus in Rio de Janeiro and anti-LGBT laws and discrimination in Sochi. The 2002 Winter Olympics, held in Salt Lake City, Utah, went off without a hitch just months after the attacks on 9/11.

Snowboarder Kelly Clark, who made her Olympic debut at the 2002 Games, emphasized that while security was tight, the U.S. always "does a good job" of keeping the athletes out of harm's way. 

Summer and Winter Olympian Lolo Jones -- who jokes that her favorite place to travel is her house because she's "never home" -- stresses that she only pays attention to what she can control. 

"I cannot control the politics, I cannot control mosquitoes flying where they want to fly," she said. "I can only control my training and that's what I focus on." 

Jones, for one, says she'd rather anticipate a different kind of issue than a nuclear strike.

"I hope it's a zombie attack," she said. "If I get over there and things get crazy, at least I can run fast."

To learn more, visit teamusa.org.  The Winter Olympics will air live, starting February 8. 

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