South Korea fell agonisingly short in their fairytale bid for women’s curling gold on Sunday, beaten 8-3 in the final by Sweden, oblivious to the celebrity status they have acquired.
Skip Anna Hasselborg’s Swedes saw off the so-called “Garlic Girls” in Pyeongchang for the Scandinavians’ third Olympic title, after Vancouver in 2010 and Turin four years earlier.
Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf, watching the match at the arena, said the clinical Swedes were “cold as ice.”
For the Koreans this was the end of a remarkable journey from the eighth-ranked team in the world to Olympic silver medallists.
Skip Kim Eun-jung and her high school team-mates cried as they waved to the crowd after conceding the final after the ninth end.
“This was the first medal in Korean curling history and we won silver, so we are very honoured,” said Kim.
The high school friends who make up Team Kim revealed they only had an inkling of the fame they had achieved.
“We gave up our mobile phones at the start of the Olympics to better concentrate on our curling,” said the Winter Games hosts’ skip.
“I haven’t received my phone back from the coach yet so I’m not sure but the atmosphere and the support has changed completely since the first game and the final match.
“I have no idea how famous we are!
“I will check the internet as soon as possible. But I know that there has been a lot of support, we received letters and presents from fans so we are very grateful.
“We are just so happy and grateful that Korean curling is receiving this much attention.”
The Swedes’ success helped alleviate their male counterparts’ pain at losing gold to the United States 24 hours earlier.
“They were cold as ice and really alert today,” said King Carl XVI Gustaf “It’s a great joy.”
Hasselborg was expertly assisted by Sara McManus, Agnes Knochenhauer, Sofia Mabergs and Maria Prytz.
Team Kim’s unexpected rise has made them headline news in a country where curling was barely heard of a fortnight ago.
Now it’s the hot topic of conversation across the nation.
And of course in their home town of Euiseong too, famous for garlic farming where thousands gathered at a local gymnasium to watch the final from a large projector and cheer on Pancake, Yogurt, Steak, Cookie and Sunny, the nicknames the girls chose to avoid confusion as they all share the same surname, Kim.
– Hammer blow –
Friends and families of the curlers packed the gym, where banners proclaimed: “Let’s dig for gold with the same strength we dig for garlic!”
Under the assured guidance of Skip Kim (Yogurt) Korea were smart out of the blocks, bagging the first point but the Swedes were 3-1 ahead by the fourth end.
With charismatic Kim biting her lip pensively her opposite number Hasselborg secured another point to put the Swedes 4-1 up at the halfway point of the 10-end game.
Team Kim pulled one back after the restart but their dream was dealt a hammer blow with Sweden picking up three points in the seventh end to make it 7-2.
Urged on by noisy support from the near 3,000-crowd at the Gangneung Curling Centre the Koreans nicked a point to go 7-3 but the Swedes got two in the next and skip Kim extended her hand to her opposite number to concede the final.
Swedish skip Hasselborg paid tribute to Team Kim, and said the welcome they had received in Korea had helped them take gold.
“We love Korean BBQ, therefore we love Korea!” she smiled.
“We’ve felt so at home in the Olympic village, all the volunteers are so smily and nice and helpful that it’s helped us to be on top form this week.”
Japan defeated Britain to claim the bronze medal.