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Sports

AFP
February 15, 2018

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Unified Korean team beaten but not downbeat

GANGNEUNG, South Korea: A unified Korean hockey team lost a grudge match 4-1 to Japan for their third straight Olympics defeat in front of a partisan crowd that included the North Korean cheerleaders and a Kim Jong Un lookalike.

The home fans chanted “We are one” even as the first joint Korean team to appear at an Olympic Games were on the end of another heavy defeat. At least they had a goal to cheer — scored by Randi Griffin, one of three Americans in the squad with Korean parentage.

Korea lost 8-0 to both Switzerland and Sweden and the Japan clash had extra spice for Koreans in the North and South who blame Japan for colonising the now-divided peninsula from 1910-1945. “I came to tonight’s game because I wanted to support our team when they play against Japan,” said Kim Yoon-hye, a 28-year-old teacher from Seoul.

Park Geum-taek, 44, from Olympic host city Pyeongchang, added: “Given the history of our countries, I feel like we must win all sporting games against Japan.” The Koreans packed into the 6,000-seat Kwandong Hockey Centre let out a deafening roar and cheered to Queen’s “We Will Rock You” even as the hosts gave up two goals only four minutes into the game. The decibels peaked when Griffin pulled one back halfway through the second period — prompting the 200-plus North Korean cheerleaders in the crowd to jump out of their seats.

Away from the ice, a double of North Korean leader Kim was being hauled off by police after dancing provocatively in front of the North Korean support.Back on it, the Korea team — heavy with symbolism but low on quality — were getting soundly beaten again.

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