UK News: How grit, determination and a spot of luck helped these Welsh fans make it to Japan just hours before match - - PressFrom - United Kingdom
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UK News How grit, determination and a spot of luck helped these Welsh fans make it to Japan just hours before match

18:50  22 october  2019
18:50  22 october  2019 Source:   walesonline.co.uk

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Like thousands of Welsh rugby fans, Sioned Thomas and Katie Dixon decided to book a trip of a lifetime to cheer on Wales in Japan during the Rugby World Cup .

But when they got to the airport, they had no time to relax and enjoy a celebratory drink as that's when the hard work was about to begin.

When booking her flights, Sioned from Llanelli could never have imagined the determination and commitment it would take to get to the country, which is usually around a 14-hour direct flight from London.

In fact, their mammoth trip involved:

* Five airports;

* Four flights;

* Three continents;

* Two days of travel.

The pair were due to fly from London City Airport to Milan on Friday, October 11 and then straight to Tokyo in time for the Wales v Uruguay match on Sunday, October 13. But it wasn't quite so straightforward.

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Sioned said: "As we were literally boarding the plane to Milan we got a text from the airline saying that the flight to Tokyo had been cancelled due to the typhoon.

"Most of us were umming and ahing about getting on the flight but the airline said that if we started the journey with them they promised to get us to our final destination.

"We flew to Milan and when we landed it was complete and utter carnage at all the desks - people didn't know what to do for the best," added the 26-year-old.

Sioned said that they had been continuously on their phones in the days leading up to their trip checking the status of flights after hearing the devastation the typhoon had caused and upon hearing that activist group Extinction Rebellion were attempting to protest at London City Airport.

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After checking the status that morning, the pair thought they were in with a bit of luck as all their flights seemed to be going ahead on time.

But after landing in Milan the women both realised that they might be in need of a miracle to make it to Kumamoto Stadium in time for the match when it looked like all flights in and out of Japan had been cancelled.

"We spoke to the airline and they said that the soonest we could get a flight to Tokyo would be on Wednesday - in five days time (and three days after the match).

"We knew that this wasn't an option and had a look on our phones to see if we could get anywhere near Kumamoto for Sunday. It looked like a lost cause.

"We met a group of Irish guys who were trying to get to Japan for the rugby so were all looking and after a lot of sky scanning we saw a flight to Cairo leaving in three hours, we booked it straight away and went straight to check-in for our flight to Egypt."

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Sioned and Katie flew to Egypt on the Friday night and were due to get on another plane to Bangkok two hours after landing in Cairo.

Disaster nearly struck when their flight to Egypt was delayed and they ended up landing only 45 minutes before their next flight was due to take off.

"We ended up running across the airport terminal to board our next flight to Bangkok, I honestly didn't think we were going to make it but after sprinting we did," says Sioned.

After landing in Bangkok, the girls still had around 2,300 miles between them and Japan and time was of the essence.

But after another spot of luck they found a flight to Fukuoka - a city a couple of hours north of Kumamoto - that was leaving nine hours later.

"We had to get on a bus to get to the other airport in Bangkok on the other side of the city and then had a long wait ahead of us. I still didn't believe that we would get there because all other flights to Japan were cancelled.

"No other flights in to the country were on the board - it looked like Fukuoka was the only airport in Japan open because the typhoon hadn't affected that far south," said Sioned.

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And at 11.50pm the girls couldn't believe their eyes when the board showed the words "boarding at Gate 33".

After that the pair finally landed in Japan on the Sunday morning and then had the comparatively easy job of getting on a train to Kumamoto in time for Wales' final pool match against Uruguay at Kumamoto Stadium a few hours later.

The girls finally breathed a sigh of relief as they got to Kumamoto with time to drop their bags off at their accommodation and head out for a well-deserved pre-match pint.

"The irony of the whole thing is that if we'd got on our original flight from London to Milan to Tokyo, Tokyo was completely shut down and we wouldn't have got to the match because all internal transport was cancelled," said Sioned.

After the whirlwind journey saw the pair travelling for 42 hours, through five countries and three continents, the Welsh fans finally saw Wales seal a victory over Uruguay .

Sioned added: "The journey was chaos from start to finish, we were desperate to get out there - it was a once in a lifetime thing for us and then when we got there finally we were absolutely knackered.

"For 42 hours, we just kept questioning and thinking this was never going to work but things just kept on working out for us.

"But honestly, the feeling once we got there was just amazing. It's difficult to describe - we were so anxious throughout the journey but once we got to the stadium the atmosphere amongst all the Welsh fans was electric. The singing, the anthem, it made everything worth it. "

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The match finished 1-0 to the home side Ben Wilmot's first-half header earned Steve Cooper's men against the Bluebirds.

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