Seoul 28 Jan. 2018 (Yonhap)
The joint Korean women’s Ice Hockey team, assembled for the upcoming PyeongChang Winter Olympics, had their first practice session together Sunday.
Following the recent inter-Korean agreement and a stamp of approval from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the two Koreas have put together a unified team of 35 players for the Olympics — 12 North Koreans have joined 23 South Koreans.
South Korea’s head coach, Sarah Murray, is in charge, while North Korea has also sent its own coach, Pak Chol-ho, to Jincheon National Training Center in Jincheon, 90 kilometers southeast of Seoul.
The North Koreans arrived Thursday, and Murray ran separate practice sessions for the two squads over the following two days.
Then on Sunday, she divided her 35 players into Team A and Team B. Team A trained from 9:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., followed by Team B from 10:15 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.
The two sides were to play a scrimmage from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
While the IOC granted extra roster spots for the Korean team — all other teams have 23 players on hand — the actual game roster remains unchanged for everyone at 22 players, with 20 skaters and two goaltenders. And Murray must include at least three North Korean players in each game, under the terms of the landmark deal.
South Korea has 14 forwards, six defensemen and three goaltenders. North Korea brought seven forwards, four blueliners and one goalie. Two of the blueliners, Jin Ok and Choe Jong-hui, are converted forwards.
South Korea is ranked No. 22, three spots above North Korea. The joint team is in Group B.
Its first game is against world No. 6 Switzerland at 9:10 p.m. on Feb. 10, with fifth-ranked Sweden up next at 9:10 p.m. on Feb. 12. The final group match is against ninth-ranked Japan at 4:40 p.m. on Feb. 14. All games will be played at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung.
The joint Korean team will have one tune-up game before the Olympics — against Sweden on Feb. 4 in Incheon, west of Seoul.
The Koreas have had joint teams at world championships for table tennis and youth football, but never at any Olympics.