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[BEIJING OLYMPICS] S. Korean curlers playing board game to take mind off loss

Kim Seon-yeong, Kim Cho-hi and Kim Kyeong-ae of South Korea (L to R) watch a delivery by the United States during a women's curling round-robin game at the Beijing Winter Olympics at the National Aquatics Centre in Beijing on Monday. (Yonhap)
Kim Seon-yeong, Kim Cho-hi and Kim Kyeong-ae of South Korea (L to R) watch a delivery by the United States during a women's curling round-robin game at the Beijing Winter Olympics at the National Aquatics Centre in Beijing on Monday. (Yonhap)

BEIJING -- There is no time to wallow in self-pity for the South Korean women's curling team in Beijing on Monday, after losing the first game of a crucial double header to the United States.

Led by skip Kim Eun-jung, South Korea will take on Japan in the nightcap at the National Aquatics Centre in the Chinese capital, starting some nine hours after South Korea's 8-6 loss to the Americans.

Every game from here on will be a must-win contest for South Korea, which sits tied for sixth place in the 10-team competition at 2-3. The top four teams after nine round-robin games will reach the semifinals.

South Korea's hopes of winning a second straight medal, after claiming a surprise silver four years ago at home, are fading with each passing game. Team Kim had lost to the host country China on Sunday, and Japan, which improved to 4-1 after pounding China 10-2 Monday, represents South Korea's biggest test yet.

The magnitude of that match, though, doesn't seem to weigh on the Korean curlers.

"We didn't play as well as we wanted this morning, but the evening game is going to be different," said Kim Kyeong-ae, the team's third. "We're going to turn our switch off, forget about this game and come back for the evening session with a clean slate."

Asked how she and her teammates will spend the long interval between the games, Kim said they will play "yut nori," the traditional Korean board game where players toss four wooden sticks in the air to advance tokens on the board.

"We're not so skilled at smartphone games," Kim said, laughing. "We like to play board games to take our mind off losses and prepare for the next game."

Informed of Japan's rout of China, Kim said: "Just because Japan beat China, that doesn't mean Japan will also get the better of us. If we can really bear down and focus, we think we can get Japan tonight."

South Korea and Japan have a bit of a curling rivalry brewing. At PyeongChang 2018, South Korea beat Japan in the semifinals en route to its silver. In last year's Olympic Qualification Event, Japan beat South Korea twice to push its rival to the brink of elimination, before South Korea grabbed the last ticket to Beijing by beating Latvia in a last-chance game.

Just like South Korea, Japan is led by the same skip from 2018, Satsuki Fujisawa.

"We're not going to be thinking too much about this being a Korea-Japan rivalry match," said Kim Seon-yeong, South Korea's lead. "We'll just try to play our own game." (Yonhap)

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