Members of the South Korean women's national curling team pose for photos during the media day event at Gangneung Curling Centre in Gangneung, around 240 kilometers east of Seoul, on Friday. (Yonhap)
GANGNEUNG -- The South Korean women's curling team will go on a quest for its second straight Olympic medal at the same Beijing venue where the country's Summer Games history was written nearly 14 years ago.
At the Feb. 4-20 Beijing Winter Olympics, curling matches will take place at the National Aquatics Center, which held swimming races when the Chinese capital hosted the 2008 Summer Games. It was there on Aug. 10, 2008, that Park Tae-hwan won gold in the men's 400m freestyle swimming. Park, who later won silver in the 200m free, remains the only South Korean swimmer with an Olympic medal.As the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics, Beijing will make use of some existing facilities previously used in 2008 for the winter competition. And Kim Eun-jung, skip of the women's curling team, said Friday she will create even more fond memories for the country at the National Aquatics Center.
"We want to write new history there too," Kim said during the national team media day event at Gangneung Curling Centre in Gangneung, around 240 kilometers east of Seoul. "There will be a lot of positive vibes there for us, and we'll bear down and give our very best."
Kim and her teammates made an awe-inspiring run to a stunning silver medal at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics at home. It was South Korea's very first Olympic medal in curling. And the same quintet, which also features lead Kim Seon-yeong, second Kim Cho-hi, third Kim Kyeong-ae and alternate Kim Yeong-mi, will be back for more Olympic glory this time.
Kim Eun-jung said the curlers are a much tighter bunch than before.
"In the past, we relied just on feel during matches," she said. "But now, we're constantly talking with one another about the ice condition and other elements."
With South Korea hosting the 2018 Olympics, Kim's team just had to win the national trials to secure its Olympic berth. This year, the curlers took the harder path to the Olympics, surviving the Olympic Qualification Event last month to join nine other teams in the Olympics. They are Canada, China, Denmark, Britain, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland, the United States and the Russian Olympic Committee, which will be made up of independent Russian athletes while their country is serving an international doping ban.
"It is more meaningful for us this time because we had to go through an extra competition," Kim Seon-yeong said. "It's a huge honor to be going back to the Olympics with the same teammates."
She said she was looking forward to renewing rivalries with curlers making their second straight appearance after PyeongChang.
"They have all improved over the years and so we have to be well prepared," she said. "The biggest strength of our team is our teamwork. We have such strong chemistry."
Coach Lim Myung-sup said he and the staff have been trying to create a training environment that can best resemble the setup at the National Aquatics Center.
"We'll be training here in Gangneung until we leave for China (on Feb. 3), and this place will only be open to the women's national team," Lim said. "We also plan to help them prepare for other elements of the game, including cheering from partisan Chinese spectators."
South Korea will open its Olympic competition against Canada on Feb. 10. The top four teams after the round robin will reach the semifinals, scheduled for Feb. 18. The gold medal match will take place on the last day of the Olympics, Feb. 20. (Yonhap)