GANGNEUNG, South Korea (Reuters) – Switzerland’s Alina Muller nearly single-handedly spoiled Korea’s Olympic unity second on Saturday, scoring 4 objectives to energy the Swiss to an Eight-Zero win over Korea’s unified ladies’s ice hockey team.
The recreation, performed earlier than South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean chief Kim Jong Un’s youthful sister, was the primary performed by a Korean hockey team on the Olympics.
It drew worldwide consideration for that includes gamers from each North and South Korea, who wore white jerseys with a picture of a united Korean peninsula emblazoned in pale blue.
There was a carnival ambiance because the near-capacity crowd cheered arduous for his or her team from the second the puck dropped and roared every time a Korean participant held possession.
Some 100 North Korean cheerleaders have been readily available, decked in pink observe fits, main chants for the spectators and singing North Korean pop songs.
In addition to Moon and Kim’s sister Kim Yo Jong, the sport was attended by Kim Yong Nam, North Korean titular head of state, and International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach. Earlier on Saturday, Kim invited Moon for talks in Pyongyang, setting the stage for the primary assembly of Korean leaders in additional than 10 years.
The international locations are nonetheless technically at struggle since a 1953 armistice, although they’ve resumed talks after a year-long standoff between North Korea and the United States by which an trade of threats between the heads of state elevated tensions and prompted the North’s continued missile and nuclear exams.
The Korean followers’ enthusiasm for Saturday’s recreation was not dampened by the scoreline, as many noticed it marking progress in direction of peace on the Korean peninsula and lots of of spectators waved unification flags.
“I feel really good and touched. I feel fortunate to see a historic game. This will contribute to inter-Korean peace,” mentioned Jang Sung-ho, who got here to observe the sport along with his seven different relations.
“It is a historic game. This small step will pave the way for inter-Korean peace,” 44-year-old workplace employee Oh Eun Seok mentioned.
ON THE ICE
In the sport itself, the Koreans proved no match for a Swiss team ranked sixth on this planet by the International Ice Hockey Federation and winners of a bronze medal 4 years in the past in Sochi, Russia.
Switzerland went up 1-Zero halfway by way of the primary interval with a short-handed objective when Muller broke up the left wing and ripped a wrist shot beneath the glove of Korean goalie Shin So Jung. By the top of the interval she would have a hat-trick, netting her third with 12 seconds remaining within the interval.
Muller scored her fourth early within the second interval. Phoebe Staenz and Lara Stalder added two objectives every to spherical out the Swiss scoring.
Korean possibilities have been few and so they managed simply eight photographs on objective.
Korean coach Sarah Murray, a 29-year-old Canadian, used three of the 12 North Korean gamers assigned to her team for the sport – forwards Kim Un Hyang, Jong Su Hyon and Hwang Chung Gum.
“I think they were nervous, coming out in front of such a big crowd and first game on the Olympic stage,” Murray mentioned. “I think in the first period we were nervous, and it was hard to come back from that.”
Murray mentioned her team’s chemistry was not a problem within the loss, although a decent timeline for integrating 12 new gamers had been a problem.
“We’re really enjoying working with the North Korean players,” she mentioned. “They work so hard, and they just want to learn, they want to get better. Obviously the time frame is very tough.”
After the sport, Moon and the 2 Kims got here all the way down to the Korean team bench to talk with the gamers gathered on the ice because the cheerleaders sang within the background. They then posed for a team picture with the gamers.
North Korean participant Jong, who had one of many team’s eight photographs on the night time, mentioned she want to see a unified team proceed after the Olympics.
“As one we’re stronger than being a divided two,” she mentioned by way of an interpreter. “As one unified team I hope we can go forward together.”
“And I think we will excel as one unified team, not just in sports, but in other areas as well.”
Additional reporting by Hyunjoo Jin, Grace Lee and James Pearson; Editing by Clare Fallon and Ed Osmond