Unified Korean women's ice hockey team loses Olympic opener, but peace wins

Updated 2018-02-11 10:17:05 Xinhua

Choi Jiyeon (C) of the unified team of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and South Korea drives the puck during their preliminary match of women's ice hockey against Switerland at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung, South Korea, on Feb. 10, 2018. (Xinhua/Wang Song)

A unified Korean women's ice hockey team, first of its kind in the Olympic history, has won the hearts of millions on Saturday night, despite a 8-0 loss to the Sochi bronze winner Switzerland in their debut at the PyeongChang Olympic Games.[Special coverage]

The 19-year-old Swiss forward Alina Muller are the star of the game with four goals, while Phoebe Staenz and Lara Stalder gave two goals each for Switzerland in the second and last period respectively.

The resilient Koreans refused to cave in till the last minute of the game, but their poor defense and inexperience cost them too much. Jong Su-Hyon from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and South Korean forward Han Soo-jin contributed the team's two most aggressive attempts in the whole game, however their efforts were in vain as Jong's shot was blocked by Swiss goalie Florence Schelling, while Han's hit the net roof.

Even though, the unified Korean team received long-lasting cheers and applause from more than 3,600 spectators, including a DPRK female cheer squad, mostly in red uniforms. The young ladies, waving a small-sized unified Korea flag and chanting constantly "win, win, win" , or "We are one" , were also under spotlight.

Among the spectators were also Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of the DPRK, who led a high-level delegation to South Korea for the Games.

They met the unified Korea team and took group pictures with the players on the rink after the game.

"Good job," Bach and President Moon said to the players, shaking hands one by one with all of them.

"It feels like I'm competing in my own country," said Jung Su-Hyon at a post-game press conference.

Despite the loss, South Korea forward Park Jong-ah remained hopeful for the games to come.

"It's our first match. We still have the hope to get into the knock-out stage," said Park.

"We're one team and we had gone all out at the rink tonight, but we have actually practice as a team together for less than a month."

The International Olympic committee decided in January to allow the national Olympic committees of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and South Korea to form a unified women's ice hockey team.

The team was created by adding 12 DPRK players to the existing South Korea's squad of 23 players. Sarah Ruth Murray, head coach of the South Korean team, took over as head coach of the unified team, who at each match selects at least three players from the DPRK.

Athletes from South Korea and the DPRK also marched together under a unified Korean flag at the opening ceremony of the 23rd Winter Olympics on Friday night, marking the first walking together in 11 years of the two countries' athletes under the same flag at the opening ceremony of an international sports event.

In an earlier game in the evening, Sweden defeated Japan 2-1 to claim their first victory in PyeongChang.

With the victory, Switzerland topped the lower-ranked Group B, which also consists of Japan, Sweden.

Canada, Finland, the Olympics Athletes from Russia, and the United States make up the higher-ranked Group A.

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