Forget Team Kim, Curl’s Day is back on the ice

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Forget Team Kim, Curl’s Day is back on the ice


From left: Gim Un-chi, Um Min-ji, Kim Su-ji, Seol Ye-eun and Seol Ye-ji pose for a photo at the Uijeongbu Curling Stadium. [BYUN SUN-GOO]

A year ago, Korea went crazy for Team Kim, the Korean women’s curling team that won a surprise silver at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. However, before Team Kim shot to stardom at PyeongChang, there was another Team Kim that competed at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, the first-ever Korean women’s curling team to compete at the Games.

And the original Team Kim is back.

Based in Gyeonggi, Team Kim, now known as Team Gim - a different English spelling of the Korean name Kim - was the first Korean women’s curling team to debut in the sport but had a disappointing eighth place finish. At the time, curling was such an unfamiliar sport in Korea that the athletes used to be mistaken for window cleaners when they carried their brooms to practice,

Though the team failed to reach the podium, the curlers’ encouragement of one another after every mistake, their good looks and their pleasant behavior quickly earned them some fans. They were given the nickname “Curl’s Day,” a reference to successful K-pop girl group Girl’s Day.

Yet their fame didn’t last long after the Sochi Olympics. The team struggled due to internal conflict but returned in 2015 to regain their spot on the national team. Their comeback only lasted a year as two former members - Kim Ji-sun and Lee Seul-bee - both left the team after getting married.

Because of this, skip Gim Un-chi and third Um Min-ji are the only two curlers from the original Sochi team to still be in the squad. In curling, teams are named after the surname of the skip. After former skip Kim Ji-sun left the team, the name changed from Team Kim to Team Gim as Gim took the helm.

Along with the two, twin sisters Seol Ye-eun, who plays as second, and Seol Ye-ji, the team’s alternate, along with second Kim Su-ji who formerly played for a Chuncheon, Gangwon, based club, joined the team to complete the lineup.

Although they haven’t spent as much time playing together as Korea’s other two Team Kims, Curl’s Day still proved its strength by winning the 100th National Winter Sport Festival in February.

“It’s a lot more meaningful because it’s our first win since we made changes to the players,” Um said.

Of the five curlers on this Team Gim, Gim has the most athletic background, as she switched from being a speed skater to curling in high school.

When Um first encountered curling, it was a complete shock because she originally thought the sport was like shot put.

“I started because my teacher at elementary school suggested I try curling,” Um said. “All of a sudden, they just said to go to the icy sheet. That’s how unfamiliar the sport was.”

Kim started curling because she needed to improve her strength.

From September to November last year, Team Gim competed at the World Curing Tour in Canada. The Korean squad played once every two weeks, so over the two months, their stay in Canada served as their overseas training as well.

“By saving money on food, we extended our overseas training by like three weeks,” Gim said. “By continuously winning and losing in a tough schedule, we got stronger mentally. Even in crucial situations, we thought that we just needed to take our shots like we do in practice.”

While Team Kim’s international fame came from skip Kim Eun-jung’s distinctive look and shouts of “Young-mi,” Team Gim has a more uniform look - all five curlers wear their hair in a ponytail with bangs for all of their games.

Um said that it was good to see curling become a popular sport in Korea at the PyeongChang Olympics, but at the same time it was a bittersweet moment for her, as she watched Team Kim from the bleachers.

“Watching Team Kim win silver, I envied them but it also motivated us,” Um said.

“The members on our team are gathered together for the goal of competing at the Olympics,” said coach Shin Dong-ho.

The national team qualifier for the 2019-20 season starts in July, and since the PyeongChang Olympics, the contest to be the one and only Korean women’s curling team spot had been very competitive.

During the National Winter Sports Festival in February, Team Gim defeated the PyeongChang Team Kim 7-6 in the final to win.

In addition to PyeongChang’s Team Kim, the Little Team Kim, based in Chuncheon, arose as another competitor. The Little Team Kim, also Korea’s current national team, recently won the third leg of the Curling World Cup in February.

“The three teams finish in the upper rank in any international events we compete in,” said Gim. “Rather than one team’s dominance, I think a fierce competition is a win-win for all of us. But at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, we want to be the winner.”

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