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(Olympics) S. Korean curling skip feeling comfortable, hoping to stay that way in Beijing

All News 17:04 February 09, 2022

By Yoo Jee-ho

BEIJING, Feb. 9 (Yonhap) -- South Korean women's curling skip Kim Eun-jung knows she can't afford to grip her stone too tight, or it can ruin her team's chances.

She feels she is at her best when she is relaxed and not distracted by anything outside her own game plan. And that's how she's trying to be at Beijing 2022, her second straight Olympics as the leader of Team Kim.

"Whenever we tried to do too much at earlier competitions, our bodies got too tight and we never got the results we wanted," Kim said after her team's first training session at the National Aquatics Centre on Wednesday. "So we will try to concentrate on things that we can do well and take things slowly from there."

Members of the South Korean women's curling team at Beijing 2022 practice at the National Aquatics Centre in Beijing on Feb. 9, 2022. (Yonhap)

Members of the South Korean women's curling team at Beijing 2022 practice at the National Aquatics Centre in Beijing on Feb. 9, 2022. (Yonhap)

Kim and her teammates, all surnamed Kim, captured an unexpected silver medal in their Olympic debut four years ago on home ice. They helped put curling on the map in South Korea.

The interest has somewhat faded, but Kim now has another opportunity to be a national star. But Kim said she doesn't feel any extra pressure of being back at the Olympics as a medalist.

"We had so much fun competing with our home fans behind us," Kim said. "China is close to Korea. We're approaching this as just another event in a neighboring country."

The curlers have been trying to enjoy their Olympic experience the best they can under the circumstances. Kim Kyeong-ae, third of the team, said the team has been attending some skating events to cheer on fellow South Korean athletes.

"We arrived here Sunday, and we decided we should try to have fun being here," she said. "Rooting for our athletes has put us in a positive mindset for the Olympics."

Members of the South Korean women's curling team at Beijing 2022 practice at the National Aquatics Centre in Beijing on Feb. 9, 2022. (Yonhap)

Members of the South Korean women's curling team at Beijing 2022 practice at the National Aquatics Centre in Beijing on Feb. 9, 2022. (Yonhap)

Beijing, which also hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics, turned the swimming arena from 14 years ago into the curling venue. This is where South Korean swimmer Park Tae-hwan earned the 400m freestyle gold medal and the 200m freestyle silver medal, becoming the first swimmer from the country to reach an Olympic podium.

Kim Eun-jung said she hoped to draw some positive energy from this venue.

"We have to get accustomed to the sheets here as quickly as possible," she said. "We hope we can compete to the best of our abilities. Hopefully, it will get us into the semifinals (after the round robin)."

There are 10 teams in the field. They will play each other once in the round robin, and the top four teams at the end will move on to the semifinals.

"I'd like to beat every team," Kim said with a smile. "If we worry about one particular team, then it can affect our focus."

Kim let on she wanted to get the better of Japan this time. Their rivalry dates back to the 2018 Olympics, where South Korea lost in the round robin but prevailed in the semifinals.

At the Olympic Qualification Event last December, Japan beat South Korea twice, forcing Team Kim to play and win an extra game to punch its ticket to Beijing.

Members of the South Korean women's curling team at Beijing 2022 practice at the National Aquatics Centre in Beijing on Feb. 9, 2022. (Yonhap)

Members of the South Korean women's curling team at Beijing 2022 practice at the National Aquatics Centre in Beijing on Feb. 9, 2022. (Yonhap)

"After we lost to them twice the last time we met, we've been trying to figure out how we can do better this time," Kim said. "We want to play well here so that we won't have regrets at the end."

Kim Seon-yeong, the new lead for Team Kim, said it meant more for the team to earn its way to the Olympics. South Korea received an automatic spot as the host country in 2018.

"To come here and train for the first time after getting the ticket on our own, it is special to all of us," Kim said. "Now, we want to go out and perform well."

Kim Yeong-mi was the lead in PyeongChang but she will now serve as the alternate. Kim Cho-hi, the youngest member of the team has moved into the unit as the new second.

Head coach Lim Myung-sup said the switch doesn't really affect the dynamic of the team.

"One of our strengths as a team is that all five curlers are equally talented," he said. "Some teams may have an issue because of some gap between the four starters and the alternate. We've been grooming Cho-hi for two years, and Yeong-mi didn't become an alternate because she's a bad curler. We're a competitive team no matter who's on the ice."

Members of the South Korean women's curling team at Beijing 2022 high five each other after practice at the National Aquatics Centre in Beijing on Feb. 9, 2022. (Yonhap)

Members of the South Korean women's curling team at Beijing 2022 high five each other after practice at the National Aquatics Centre in Beijing on Feb. 9, 2022. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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