Korea win historic silver in women’s curling final

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Korea win historic silver in women’s curling final


Kim Eun-jung, center, slides the stone during the women's curling final against Sweden at the Gangneung Curling Centre in Gangwon on Sunday. [YONHAP]

Korea may have missed out on a gold medal in the women’s curling final at the Gangneung Curling Centre in Gangwon on Sunday morning, but the dynamic Team Kim have won the adoration of fans across the country and around the world after they unexpectedly swept through the competition with steely determination and impeccable teamwork.

Starting as the hammer — the curling term for the advantageous finals shot of each round, or end — Korea took the lead with a point in the first end. After a blank end in the second, Sweden kept the hammer and added two points in the third. Though Korea had the hammer, Team Kim allowed Sweden to steal in the fourth, and the score reached 4-1 to Sweden by the end of the fifth.

Korea started to push back in the sixth, taking a point to bring the score to 4-2, but their comeback didn’t last long. Sweden responded with a blistering seventh end, taking three points and leaving Team Kim five points behind as the game neared its end.

Korea added a point in the eighth, but as Sweden added another in the ninth, Team Kim conceded at the start of the tenth, concluding the game at 8-3 and securing Sweden the gold medal.

Despite finishing in second place, Team Kim’s silver medal is still considered one of the biggest upsets of this year’s Winter Games. For Korea, a country that has only once qualified for the Olympics in any event — men’s, women’s or mixed doubles — to make it out the round robin stage was completely unexpected. The team’s achievement has completely changed the face of the sport in a country that until last week was almost completely unaware of its existence.

The unlikely Cinderella story caught the public’s imagination outside of Korea as well, and Team Kim quickly gained a global following. Skip Kim Eun-jung’s stoic game face was instant meme material and the squad’s unity and teamwork quickly won the hearts of social media users around the world.

Kim Eun-jung’s emphatic shouts of “Yeong-mi” — the team’s lead — have already become a globally recognizable catchphrase and the skip’s hairstyle has also started to take off, with children across Korea opting for her signature front plait with ponytail.
Team Kim also turned heads for their skill with a curling stone. The Korean squad pulled off some remarkable moves to comfortably beat the five top curling nations in the world — Canada, the United States, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the Olympic Athletes from Russia — in the round robin stage.

Sweden, who started the competition as the fifth ranked team, have a far more impressive Olympic record. After winning gold at the 2010 Vancouver Games and silver at the 2014 Sochi Games, Sweden were considered a favorite to take the top spot this year. In the round robin stages they won seven of their nine games, losing to Korea and Japan in two incredibly tight games.

Team Kim’s silver medal is not only Korea’s first ever Olympic medal in curling, but the first time that a Korean team has reached the final in any international curling championship. Korea has twice reached the world championship final in wheelchair curling, in 2008 and 2012.

BY KANG YOO-RIM, JIM BULLEY [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]
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