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[PyeongChang 2018] South Korean women’s curling enters uncharted territory in final four

South Korea has secured its place in the final four of women’s curling at the PyeongChang Winter Games, beating the United States 9-6 on Tuesday.

The team of four Kims -- Kim Yeong-mi, Kim Seon-yeong, Kim Kyeong-ae and Kim Eun-jung -- will next play in the semifinals Friday, against a yet to be determined opponent. The team has won six matches and lost one, to Japan, in the round-robin preliminaries.

Tuesday’s win at the Gangneung Curling Centre marks the first time South Korea has made the semifinals at the Winter Olympics. Sweden, Britain and Japan currently round out the top four with five wins, trailed by the US and China with four wins.

“We are very happy that we are leading history for South Korean curling,” said Kim Seon-yeong. “We will make greater history in our remaining matches.”

Team Kim (Yonhap)
Team Kim (Yonhap)

She added that due to the high quality of all the teams, there are many unforeseeable variables and the players should give their best in each match, regardless of their opponent.

In the curling men’s round robin on Tuesday, Korea secured its third victory by beating Switzerland 8-7, but still fell short of moving on to the semifinals. As only the top four teams of the 10 participating countries move on to the playoffs, the Korean team, having lost five times, will not make it to the final four regardless of the result of the upcoming competition with Japan on Wednesday.

On the same day, the unified Korean women’s hockey team lost to Sweden 6-1 in the match for seventh place at these Olympics. It was the team’s final contest in the controversial competition, as many critics were unsympathetic to the idea of a joint team featuring North Korean and South Korean athletes playing side by side.

Team Korea lost all five games it played by a combined score of 28-2, but was lauded for putting up a fight and promoting the spirit of sorority and teamwork.

As of 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Norway led the overall competition with 11 gold, nine silver and eight bronze, trailed by Germany with 10 gold, six silver and four bronze and Canada with eight gold, five silver and six bronze. The Netherlands grabbed the fourth spot with six gold, five silver and two bronze, and the United States was at fifth with five gold, three silver and four bronze. South Korea stood at No. 9 with three gold, two silver and two bronze.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (Yonhap)
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (Yonhap)

The Canadian figure skating pair of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir mustered up a smoldering performance to secure a last-minute victory in the ice dance at the PyeongChang Winter Games on Tuesday.

The Vancouver 2010 ice dance champions looked destined for silver after French rivals Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron came out strong, breaking their own free dance and combined score mark at 205.28. However, skating last to the music of “Moulin Rouge,” the two showcased the dance of their lifetimes to earn 206.07 points, narrowly edging out the French.

Bronze went to American siblings pair Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani with 192.59.

“We are so grateful to our team for having prepared us for this. We are taking in every single moment,” Virtue said afterward.

“We love to skate together and we love to play the characters that we’re playing,” Moir said before the event. “After 20 years, if you don’t have love for each other -- do you know what we’ve been through together?”

Virtue, 28, and Moir, 30, both originally from Ontario, have competed together for 20 years. Although they claim to not be romantically involved, Moir revealed in a recent interview that they used to date -- when he was 10 and Virtue was 8.

“It’s been a fun ride to be together. It’s been a joy our whole career. We’ve spent hours in the dark, crappy hockey rinks doing programs like this to be in this limelight and to enjoy this moment together,” he added.

The Canadians were the heavy favorite going into the event at Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung, one of two cities hosting the 2018 Winter Games. They helped Canada win its first gold medal in the team event at PyeongChang on Feb. 12, finishing on top in the free dance with a 118.1-point performance.

With Tuesday’s victory, Virtue and Moir have become the most decorated figure skaters in Olympic history with their third gold and fifth medal overall. They also join Pasha Grishuk and Evgeniy Platov of Russia as the only figure skaters to win two golds in the event.

In women’s freestyle skiing halfpipe on Tuesday, Canada’s Cassie Sharpe won gold with a score of 95.8. The silver went to France’s Marie Martinod, and the bronze went to the United States’ Brita Sigourney.

Silver medal to Cha Min-kyu of South Korea (left), Gold to Harvard Lorentzen of Norway and bronze for Gao Tingyu of China. (Yonhap)
Silver medal to Cha Min-kyu of South Korea (left), Gold to Harvard Lorentzen of Norway and bronze for Gao Tingyu of China. (Yonhap)

South Korean Cha Min-kyu clinched silver in the men’s speedskating 500 meters Monday evening, finishing second by a whisker behind winner and world No. 1 Havard Lorentzen of Norway. 

Cha came in at 34.42 seconds -- 0.01 second behind the Norwegian -- at Gangneung Oval. Cha’s teammates Kim Jun-ho and Mo Tae-bum clocked in at 35.01 and 35.154 for 12th and 16th, respectively.

The bronze medal went to Gao Tingyu of China at 34.65 seconds.

Cha’s record ties that of Casey Fitzrandolph of the United States at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.

“I am very happy because I finished in the top three as I had planned,” said Cha following his win. “When I saw my record, I felt that I had succeeded in meeting my goal. But I feel it’s a little shame that I couldn’t top the race by a mere margin of 0.01 second. I thought winning the gold was possible after looking at my record.”

The 24-year old sprinter, who was No. 9 in the 2017-2018 world rankings, became the third South Korean Olympic medalist in the men’s 500 meters speedskating, following Lee Kang-seok winning bronze at Turin 2006 and Mo Tae-bum taking gold in 2010.

South Korea’s male speedskating team will attempt to win its first gold in the team pursuit event Wednesday.

Lee Seung-hoon, Chung Jae-won, Kim Min-seok and Joo Hyong-jun will race in the men’s pursuit semifinals against New Zealand at Gangneung Oval. If the team advances, it will face the winner between the Netherlands and Norway on the same day to advance to the final.

The country’s women’s curling team will face the Olympic Athletes from Russia and Danish team in Wednesday’s round-robin matches, while the men’s curling team is to square off against the Japanese team.

By Joel Lee (joel@heraldcorp.com)
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