[OLYMPIC ROUNDUP] Korea just can’t seem to get a handle on the ball in Brazil

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[OLYMPIC ROUNDUP] Korea just can’t seem to get a handle on the ball in Brazil

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Left: Libero Kim Hae-ran, far left, wing spiker Kim Yeon-koung, center, and middle blocker Kim Su-ji step off the court with their heads down after the Netherlands routed them by 1-3 (19-25, 14-25, 25-23, 20-25) in the quarterfinals. The Dutch players dominated the Koreans from the get-go, taking 12 service aces total throughout the match, and curbed Korea’s bid to end its medal drought in volleyball and finally take home a medal for the first time in four decades. Korea will have to wait for another four years now. Right: Greco-Roman wrestler Ryu Han-su, left, a medal hopeful who was at his first Olympics, is devastated after losing to Azerbaijan’s Rasul Chunayev in the bronze medal match. Ryu has been training partners of the past Olympians and has finally joined the national judo squad prior to this year’s Summer Games, hoping to retain the glory that he saw his partners bring home for himself. [NEWSIS] [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

For the first time in 44 years, Korean teams in ball games, such as football and volleyball, are returning from the Summer Olympics empty-handed.

On the 12th day of the Rio Olympics, the Korean women’s volleyball team, which had hoped to bring home the first Olympic medal in four decades, was eliminated in the quarters.

Although the Netherlands, Korea’s opponent of the day, is ranked two standings below the Korean outfit at 11th, the European country that Kim Yeon-koung and her teammates faced on Tuesday simply seemed superior.

During the quarterfinals match on Tuesday at Maracanazinho, the Netherlands routed Korea 3-1 (19-25, 14-25, 25-23, 20-25), ending Korea’s dream to reach the Olympic podium for the first time since the 1976 Montreal Games, when the team clinched bronze.

In May, during the qualifiers for the Olympics, Korea crushed the Netherlands 3-0. Korea had 11 service aces and tore the Europeans apart. Kim and the rest of the Korean squad therefore had no idea that this time around, they would be the victims of the Netherlands’ lethal serves.

The Korean players, including Kim, were unable to return these fierce serves.

In the opening set, Korea’s success rate in reception was only 28%, not to mention it gave out three consecutive service aces in the early stage of the second set. Defensively, Korea was also outperformed by the Netherlands, as Kim’s spikes were rendered useless whenever they reached the other side of the court.

For Kim, it was a lonely fight. Whenever she leaped into the air to spike the ball, there were three blockers on the other side of the net. Despite this, she demonstrated why she is the highest paid volleyball player in the world, tallying 27 points total, the most points scored by a single player, Korean or Dutch. But her teammates, who were at her side before, weren’t there this time.

What a nightmare to relive. Back in the 2012 London Games, despite Korea finishing fourth, Kim was selected as MVP of the entire competition. While it is questionable whether she will retain that honor, it seems Kim singlehandedly led the team at this year’s Games as happened in 2012.

“Some cried after the game,” Kim later said. “For some of us, it is the last Olympics of our careers.”

But the women’s volleyball team isn’t the only Olympic disappointment in ball sports this year. The men’s football team, who captured bronze in the 2012 London Olympics, had its bid to match or even outperform the 2012 feat dashed when it lost to Honduras during the quarterfinals on Saturday.

The women’s field hockey team, as well as handball team, also came up short in their pursuits for medals. The women’s handball team, which went to the semis or beyond in every Olympics since the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, had to endure a disgrace along the lines of which it hasn’t faced in 32 years, as it was eliminated from the preliminaries in Rio.

The women’s field hockey team, meanwhile, whose objective was to nab a medal for the first time in 20 years, finished the preliminaries at the bottom of its group.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, Sung Ji-hyun, a women’s singles badminton player, also had to pack her bags and go home after losing to Carolina Marin of Spain in quarterfinals. Adding to the bad news, Greco-Roman wrestler Ryu Han-su had to stand and watch a medal slip by as he was defeated by Azerbaijan’s Rasul Chunayev in a bout for bronze.

By Choi Hyung-jo

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