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South Korean women’s curling team looks to future

Posted March. 03, 2018 07:47,   

Updated March. 03, 2018 07:47


It seems the South Korean women’s curling team that has become the country’s most popular Olympic stars still don’t know how famous they are. The players introduced that the national curling craze at Friday’s media day at Kyungbuk Sports High School. The team, also called Team Kim as all five members and their coach share the same surname Kim, won a silver medal at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, exceeding the host’s most expectations. The players, who captured its people’s hearts at the Winter Olympics, are drawing the most attention as they encounter fans waiting to get their autographs where ever they go.

The curling team caught attention for their team chemistry and unique chants. Yelling “Young-mi!” as the team’s skip, or captain Kim Eun-jung yells at the lead sweeper, with varying level of urgency, has become a national chant of support for the team. The captain said she desperately yelled the name of the team’s lead to make the best shots. “It was already so hard so I thought ‘how much more do I need to sweep,’” Kim Young-mi, her longtime friend, said with a smile.

The team has earned its nickname of the “Garlic Girls” as its four players hail from Uiseong, known for its garlic production. Asked if they actually eat a lot of garlic, Kim Kyung-ae said, “Our team really likes to eat. We enjoy eating everything, from garlic to any food good for health, and meat to vegetables.”

The South Korean curlers have received more than 150 calls from advertisers and reporters after the brilliant performance at the Winter Olympics. The players, who are fans of the professional baseball team Samsung Lions, are also invited to throw the first ball. Coach Kim Min-jung said they would prefer to be on a public service advertisement. “Throwing the first ball is like a dream come true,” Kim Eun-jung said. “We earned the attention because we played as a team, so I’m thinking we can throw the ball at each position.

The phenomenal popularity of the “Garlic Girls” is giving rise to new curling clubs in a number of cities across the country. The team hopes that the country’s skyrocketed interest in curling would not fade away. “I hope the sport of curling will become more popular and there will be many players and teams,” said the captain. The coach also expressed her hope that there are many curling teams here in Korea and at the same time the country can host a world curling tournament where global contenders compete. The South Korean team has participated in 12 overseas tournaments in a year to strengthen its competitiveness in the global arena. “I hope tournaments held in the country can make many teams compete and grow together,” the coach said. “That will also help our team brace up.”

The team will be in Canada for the 2018 World Women’s Curling Championship from March 17. “There is quite a lot of pressure for performance, but we will keep focusing on every match and finish the tournament with good results,” said Kim Seon-yeong.

Yun-Cheol Jeong trigger@donga.com