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Wheelchair curling team loses to Norway in semis

Oseong Avengers will play in the bronze medal game today
Mar 17,2018
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The Korean wheelchair curling team, in black, watches Norway’s shot during the semifinals at Gangneung Curling Centre in Gangwon on Friday. [YONHAP]
The Korean wheelchair curling team was given a shot at redemption against third ranked Norway but lost once again during the semifinals game, 8-6, at the Gangneung Curling Centre in Gangwon on Friday.

Though Korea had the hammer in the first end, the home side allowed Norway to take an early lead. The Korean team attempted a blank end but as Cha Jae-goan’s shot came up short, Norway ended up taking a point. Korea responded with two points in the following end to take the lead.

“Cha Jae-goan didn’t seem to be in his best condition so I thought I needed to quickly switch him out with Lee Dong-ha,” said Baek Jong-chul, coach of the wheelchair curling team. “I told Lee Dong-ha to get ready during the third end, when there was one stone remaining. But Seo Soon-seok seemed to be in great condition so I had him slide the last stone.”

After giving away three points in the third end, Baek’s plan to change a player and the order started to pay dividends, as Korea scored two points in the fourth end. Korea’s rally stopped there, however, as the next two ends were both scoreless. Norway broke the silence in the seventh end, taking two points to pull ahead 6-4.

In a nail-biter eighth end Korea managed to take advantage of the hammer to claw back two points, tying the score and taking the game into an extra end.

Korea struggled with power throughout the game, often coming up short, and the all-important ninth end was no different. The Oseong Avengers had three hog line violations - failing to get the stone passed the line 6.4 meters (21 feet) from the center of the house - essentially forfeiting the stones. The game came down to Korea’s final stone, which ironically went long. Norway won the game with two stones in the house, making the final score 8-6.

This was Korea’s second straight loss to Norway, following a 9-2 loss in the round robin game. With another loss, Korea’s all time head-to-head record against Norway is at two wins and eight losses.

Prior to the semifinal game, Korea finished the round robin tied for first along with Canada and China, finishing the 11 games with a record of nine wins and two losses. As Korea beat both Canada and China, securing a perfect head-to-head record with the top teams, it finished at the top of the table. Coming top was more of a curse than a blessing as it meant Korea was paired with fourth-ranked Norway, the only of the top four teams it hadn’t already beaten.

Unlike in curling, wheelchair curlers do not use brooms, so the frantic sweeping and shouting that is typical of Olympic curling is cut out of the game. Instead, it all comes down to the shooter. As a result, the team’s discussions before each shot are a crucial part of the sport.

The Korean wheelchair curling team, which consists of four male curlers - skip Seo, Cha, Jung Seung-won and Lee - and the team’s lead, or second-in-command, female curler Bang Min-ja - are nicknamed the Oseong Avengers. The first syllable oh is Korean for five, while seong means both surname and star. The Oseong Avengers are a five-star team with five different surnames.

“I am angry at myself,” Seo said. “Since I was last in position, the order didn’t really matter. The last rock was very disappointing. The skip has to be responsible for everything. It’s disappointing to not check the condition of the ice properly.”

Though Korea will no longer be able to achieve their goal of winning a gold medal, they’ll still have a chance for a podium finish. Korea will play in the bronze medal game against fourth ranked Canada at Gangneung Curling Centre today at 9:35.

“We still have the bronze medal game,” Seo said. “We want to finish strong.”

BY KANG YOO-RIM, KIM HYO-KYUNG [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]