January 19, 2018 13:20
Women's ice hockey goalie Shin So-jung on Thursday told the Chosun Ilbo of her regrets that the two Koreas have chosen her sport to field an inter-Korean team for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang next month.
"I've dreamed of being on the Olympic squad for 14 years. I'm really perplexed and disappointed because I had such high hopes for it," she said. "I can't still believe that all this happened less than a month away from the Olympics."
Shin has played for the ice hockey national squad ever since she joined at the age of 14 in 2004, and now she leads the team. She said the team are "frustrated and demoralized."
Asked whether they were ever consulted ahead of the decision to form the unified team, Shin said, "Not a word. It was such a shock because we hadn't heard anything until we arrived at the airport last week from field training in the U.S."
Up to eight North Korean players are to join the unified team. The government said this will not affect South Korean players, but there is no option but to kick some of them off the roster, which is limited to 22 per match, and reduce playing time in rotation.
"Women's ice hockey players in Korea have no professional sports team or a place to train," she said. "All of us had to give up something in our lives, but we’ve been striving toward one goal -- to play in the Olympics. We could bear it all because we're proud to represent our country. That's why we feel so devastated now."
Not the least of her worries is "team chemistry." "Injecting North Korean players, even if they outperform us, would hurt the team's overall performance anyway. Hockey is a team sport, which means tightly working as a team is more important than each individual player's skill."
Shin competed in three out of six matches against North Korea. "I can definitely say that we're in a different league from the North." When asked if she remembers any impressive North Korean player, she simply said, "No."
"Even so, we have to try and focus on training for the remainder. It's obvious we can't change the decision," she added. "We'll stay strong for the Olympics and give our best."
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