Winter Olympics 2018: Unified Korea ice hockey team crash out of Games with 8-0 defeat to Sweden

The unified team for the Winter Games in South Korea was the product of a landmark deal between the South and North Korea, the neighbours still technically at war

AFP February 12, 2018 21:43:52 IST
Winter Olympics 2018: Unified Korea ice hockey team crash out of Games with 8-0 defeat to Sweden

Pyeongchang: North Korea's band of all-female supporters was unable to inspire the historic joint Korean women's ice hockey team as they were dumped out of the Pyeongchang Olympics with an 8-0 defeat to Sweden on Monday.

The unified team for the Winter Games in South Korea was the product of a landmark deal between the South and North Korea, the neighbours still technically at war, after a year of high tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear and missile tests.

The home crowd, seated among them the North Korean cheerleaders, roared their players as they skated onto the ice in their blue-and-red jerseys, "KOREA" emblazoned over a pale blue silhouette of the divided peninsula.

Winter Olympics 2018 Unified Korea ice hockey team crash out of Games with 80 defeat to Sweden

Unified Korea in action against Sweden during the women's preliminary round ice hockey match. AFP

The joint team is deeply symbolic, but as a hockey side they were at the Games with little hope of making a serious impression in terms of the competition.

And so it proved as they were hammered 8-0 for the second time in a row, this time to the Swedes, ranked five in the world.

Sweden were 3-0 up in just 10 minutes and the heavy defeat means Korea play Japan on Wednesday in their final match in a deadrubber.

But even as the home team were being pounded, the 200-strong North Korean cheerleaders in red, blue and white tracksuits chanted, "Cheer up", clapping and waving mini-unification flags in unison and setting off a Mexican wave.

The unity was interrupted when a four-member South Korean cheering group, in tight white T-shirts and pink shorts, skipped and hopped to Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend".

The North Koreans responded with songs of their own, mostly old folk numbers, including a ballad longing for one's home town, showing a deep cultural divide between the two halves of the peninsula.

The Games have triggered a rare moment of reconciliation between the two Koreas.

Only a few months ago, Pyongyang's missile and nuclear tests and exchanges of threats with Washington were driving tensions sky-high.

But in a whirlwind of Olympic diplomacy, hundreds of North Koreans came South last week to attend the Pyeongchang Games, and in extraordinary scenes the North Korean leader's sister Kim Yo Jong cheered the unified team together with the South's President Moon Jae-in.

'Play with one mind' 

The unified hockey team was hastily assembled only two weeks before the Olympics began and it showed in the one-sided losses to Switzerland and now Sweden.

Local fans at the stadium were more bothered about the significance of the joint team.

"I know we lack skill compared to other teams but I hope they will play with one mind," said Kim Sang-wook, 62, from Seoul.

Koo Bon-jae, a 20-year-old student from the South Korean capital, added, "I was initially against it but I was touched after seeing them on the ice together."

But not everyone was in favour and the addition of North Korean players to the team had provoked controversy in the South, with accusations that Seoul was depriving some of its own players the chance to compete at a home Olympics for political purposes.

Since the division of the peninsula the two Koreas have only competed as unified teams in 1991, when their women won the team gold at the world table tennis championship in Japan, and their under-19 footballers reached the world championship quarter-finals in Portugal.

Updated Date:

also read

Why Uddhav Thackeray wants India to have a public policy to control crowding
India

Why Uddhav Thackeray wants India to have a public policy to control crowding

The Maharashtra chief minister made this suggestion in a virtual meeting held by the prime minister on Friday during which he took stock of the coronavirus situation

Tokyo Olympics 2020: Favourites US Women thumped by Sweden while Dutch score 10 against Zambia in football
Sports

Tokyo Olympics 2020: Favourites US Women thumped by Sweden while Dutch score 10 against Zambia in football

The US have won four of six Olympic titles since women's football was introduced to the programme in 1996, but suffered a heavy defeat by the same team that knocked them out on penalties in the quarter-finals in Rio.

Tokyo Olympics 2020: India's Deepika Kumari, Pravin Jadhav sail into mixed team QF after beating Chinese Taipei
First Cricket News

Tokyo Olympics 2020: India's Deepika Kumari, Pravin Jadhav sail into mixed team QF after beating Chinese Taipei

Later in the day, the Indian duo will face the winners of top seed Korea and Bangladesh in the mixed pair section, which is making its Olympics debut at Tokyo.