02/24 22:36 CST Sweden pickles Korea's 'Garlic Girls' for curling gold
Sweden pickles Korea's 'Garlic Girls' for curling gold
By JIMMY GOLEN
AP Sports Writer
GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) --- If the Korean women's curling team thought
winning an Olympic silver medal was fun, wait until they get their mobile
The "Garlic Girls" who sparked a national phenomenon in the quirky sport with
the sweeping and the shouting lost to Sweden 8-3 in Sunday's Olympic final, a
result that only slightly diminished the excitement in the host country.
The hubbub was so great , in fact, that their coach took away their cellphones
to shield them from any pressure that might come from all the attention in a
country that had no real curling tradition before being selected to host the
2018 Winter Games.
"It is the first medal" for Korea, skip Kim Eun-jung said. "We have been
through a lot, so that we could blaze a trail."
Fans filled a high school gym to watch a livestream of the gold medal match in
the team's home county, which had previously been best known as the
garlic-growing capital of the peninsula. The Korean matches in the Gangneung
Curling Venue were also packed, and fans cheered for their every shot ---
"We are just so happy that the crowd --- it's been filled out every game and
that's such a cool feeling for a curler," Swedish skip Anna Hasselborg said.
"They didn't cheer for us today, but that's OK. We tried to use their energy as
Sweden took control of the match by stealing a point in back-to-back ends ---
the fourth and the fifth --- even though Korea had the last-rock advantage
known as the hammer. After Korea mustered just one point in the sixth,
Hasselborg delivered a takeout on her final rock of the seventh to score three
points and open a 7-2 lead.
The Koreans picked up one in the eighth, but they couldn't keep the Swedes from
scoring in the ninth. Kim shook hands to concede defeat, then took off her
iconic owlish glasses and wiped tears away from her eyes.
Noting that her name "Eun" means "silver" in Korean, Kim said: "Many people
made a joke I needed to change my name."
One popular suggestion: "Geum," for "gold."
With King Carl XVI Gustaf in the stands for the second day in a row, the Swedes
erased some of the sting from the men's final, when their top-seeded team was
upset by the Americans . The Swedish women are among the sport's dominant
powers, with five medals --- three gold --- in the six Olympics since curling
joined the Winter Games.
"To fight against (nations such as) Canada, that has a million active curling
players, while we in Sweden have about 4,000, it shouldn't be possible," the
King said. "But they made it."
Once again, curling enjoyed its quadrennial moment in the sun, with fans around
the world tuning in to see the sliding and the sweeping and the clattering
rocks. No one --- not even the disappointed Canadians , who failed to medal in
either the men's or women's event --- took to the sport more passionately than
Korea had never qualified for an Olympic curling tournament before Sochi in
2014. Kim said she could feel the excitement build.
"The support was different from the start and today," she said.
And it's not just in Korea.
In the United States, fans watched in the middle of the night to see John
Shuster's team beat Sweden to win gold --- just the second Olympic curling
medal in American history. The actor Mr. T and football players like Aaron
Rodgers and J.J. Watt reached out on social media, giving the curlers respect
as athletes that they sometimes struggle for amid all of the jokes about brooms
In Pyeongchang, curling was the busiest sport; from the first match of the new
mixed doubles discipline --- a day and a half before the lighting of the
cauldron --- to the end of the women's final, there were 18 straight days of
competition, some with as many as four matches in each of three sessions per
Hasselborg's team earned its first Olympic medal; a different Swedish foursome
won in Turin and Vancouver. Coach Maria Prytz was on the team that won silver
four years ago in Sochi.
"Just thinking about this journey almost makes me want to cry," Hasselborg
said. "To perform the way we did today, I'm crazy proud.
"But It's not the end of a journey. It's a journey that just got started. I'm
overwhelmed that I got to do it with this team," she said. "We're having the
time of our lives."
More AP Olympics: https://wintergames.ap.org