In hockey, a a lot totally different form of divide has existed. Lengthy in Japan’s shadow, the Korean Ice Hockey Affiliation invested heavily in build up its girls’s hockey program for the 2018 Video games. Because the host nation, the Korean group earned automated qualification.
It has matured considerably below Sarah Murray, the Canadian-born coach employed in 2014. South Korea spent the final two years difficult prime American school groups, and it captured a second-division world championship final yr.
Nonetheless, Murray has usually needed to remind her group that there are different Olympic opponents apart from Japan — it misplaced its first two video games, in opposition to Switzerland and Sweden, every by 8-0 — at the same time as she has come to grasp how desperately her gamers need to beat Japan on Wednesday.
“That is my dream for my hockey life,” mentioned Korea’s captain, Park Jong-ah, who has performed on the nationwide group since she was 14.
As the highest girls’s hockey energy in Asia, Japan will not be solely a rival, it’s Korea’s measuring stick for achievement. Japan additionally misplaced to Sweden and Switzerland of their opening two video games within the Olympic event, however by scores of 2-1 and Three-1.
, The advance of the South Korean group might assist Japan enhance, by lifting the standard of play within the area. In November, at considered one of Japan’s closing pre-Olympic coaching camps, goaltender Nana Fujimoto famous similarities of their packages’ ascent.
“Japan has not at all times been on this stage,” she mentioned. “We got here from the underside.”
South Korea’s rise has been a lot swifter. Japan gained an automated bid into the inaugural Olympic girls’s hockey event because the host nation for the 1998 Video games in Nagano, however it completed final within the event and didn’t qualify for one more Olympics till 2014.
The Japanese need to beat Korea to assist in their quest to realize extra funding for the group lengthy often known as Smile Japan. That will probably be harder than it was within the days of 29-goal obliterations, however even for an improved Korea, the Japanese nonetheless current a steep hill to climb.
“They’re small, they’re quick they usually work actually exhausting,” Korea ahead Randi Heesoo Griffin mentioned final week. s “If we are able to continue to grow as a group, that’s a mannequin for us. That’s what we’ll appear like in 5 or 10 years.
“Or possibly in 5 days.”