The Korean women’s team competed in every Olympic Games since making its debut at home in the city of Seoul in 1988. A silver medal, much to their surprise, turned out to be a turning point in the greater development of hockey in this East Asian nation.
Precisely eight years later, the Koreans stunned the world once again in Atlanta (1996) by claiming a second silver medal after falling short in their efforts in Barcelona four years earlier by finishing fourth.
However, the once powerhouse of women’s world of hockey in the 90s have been inconsistent as far as the Olympic Games is concerned. A string of bad luck and under performance saw the Koreans slip from being silver medallist to finishing ninth in 2000 (Sydney) and 2008 (Beijing) respectively and seventh spot in Athens. At the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games they returned home finishing eighth position after suffering a 4-0 hiding by Germany in the classification match.
For Rio Olympics, which run from Aug 5 to 21, Korea is sending 330 delegation members, including 204 athletes, the smallest number since the 1976 Montreal Olympics. The women’s hockey team, however, is showing strong determination and ambition in improving their performance at the world’s greatest show piece event on earth.
Coached by Han Jin Soo, the Koreans have displayed free-flowing, exciting brand of attacking hockey which is the hallmark of the team and will certainly thrill the fans at the Deodoro Olympic Park Hockey Centre.
The World No 8-ranked side have assembled an experienced team that comprises five players with more than 130 international caps. Leading the challenge are forwards Park Mihyun (207 caps), Kim Jongeun (206), midfielder Han Hye Lyoung (156), goalkeeper Jang Soo Ji (150) and defender Park Kiju (133). The oldest player, however, is 31-year-old midfielder Kim Bomi.
Han’s Korea is one of four Asian women teams vying for accolades in Rio. The Koreans are the second highest ranked Asian side in the Olympics beside China (World No 5), Japan (10) and the 13-ranked India.
They will surely be looking towards their most famous goal poachers in forwards Mihyun and Jongeun who have between them scored a total of 90 international goals followed by midfielder Joojin (27) and Hye Lyoung (20).
Drawn in Group A in Rio, the Koreans face a formidable opposition in the ranks of World No 1 and reigning Olympic champions the Netherlands who defeated Argentina 2-0 in the final of the 2012 London Olympics. It was the Dutch women’s third Olympic gold medal following triumphs in Los Angeles (1984) and Beijing (2008).
Other mouth-watering matches are against New Zealand (4), China, Germany (9) and Spain, at world No 14, are the lowest ranked team in the women’s competition.
The Koreans open their campaign in Rio de Janeiro against New Zealand (Aug 7), the Netherlands (Aug 8), Germany (Aug 10), China (Aug 12) and conclude the group stage fixtures against the Spaniards on Aug 13. The quarterfinals will be held on Aug 15, semi-finals on 17 and final on Aug 19.
Speaking at the official dinner for the Rio Olympic-bound Korean contingent at the Olympic Hall in southern Seoul recently, Kim Jung-haeng, president of the Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) was quoted in the Korea Times when he said: “For South America’s first Olympics, the Korean athletes and officials are set to depart for Brazil. It will be a difficult challenge for them as they have to cope with more than 20 hours of flight time and a time difference of 12 hours.
“But I wish their sweat and toil will bear rich fruit,” said Kim. Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn and Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Kim Jong-deok also attended the ceremony.
Chung Mong-gyu, head of the Korean delegation, echoed: “This year’s Summer Olympics takes place in South America for the first time in Olympic history. Though we are not fully satisfied with the conditions surrounding the hosting city, we will do our best to be placed in the top 10 by the gold medal count.”
The Squad – Manager: Kang Keon Wook
Head coach: Han Jin Soo
Asst. Coach: Kim Yoon
Players – Goalkeepers: Jang Soo Ji, Jung Heabin.
Defenders: Seo Jungeun, Lee Yurim, Jang Heesun, Park Kiju, Baek Eeseul.
Midfielders: An Hyoju, Han Hye Lyoung, Kim Bomi, Kim Hyunji, Hong Yoojin.
Forwards: Park Seunga, Park Mihyun, Kim Jongeun, Cheon Eunbi, Cho Hyejin, Lee Young Sil.
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