South Korea fell agonisingly short in their fairytale bid for women’s curling gold on Sunday, beaten 8-3 in the final by Sweden, oblivious to the celebrity status they have acquired.
Skip Anna Hasselborg’s Swedes saw off the so-called “Garlic Girls” in Pyeongchang for the Scandinavians’ third Olympic title, after Vancouver in 2010 and Turin four years earlier.
Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf, watching the match at the arena, said the clinical Swedes were “cold as ice.”
For the Koreans this was the end of a remarkable journey from the eighth-ranked team in the world to Olympic silver medallists.
Skip Kim Eun-jung and her high school team-mates cried as they waved to the crowd after conceding the final after the ninth end.
“This was the first medal in Korean curling history and we won silver, so we are very honoured,” said Kim.
The high school friends who make up Team Kim revealed they only had an inkling of the fame they had achieved.
“We gave up our mobile phones at the start of the Olympics to better concentrate on our curling,” said the Winter Games hosts’ skip.
“I haven’t received my phone back from the coach yet so I’m not sure but the atmosphere and the support has changed completely since the first game and the final match.
“I have no idea how famous we are!
“I will check the internet as soon as possible. But I know that there has been a lot of support, we received letters and presents from fans so we are very grateful.
“We are just so happy and grateful that Korean curling is receiving this much attention.”
The Swedes’ success helped alleviate their male counterparts’ pain at losing gold to the United States 24 hours earlier.
“They were cold as ice and really alert today,” said King Carl XVI Gustaf “It’s a great joy.”
Hasselborg was expertly assisted by Sara McManus, Agnes Knochenhauer, Sofia Mabergs and Maria Prytz.
Team Kim’s unexpected rise has made them headline news in a country where curling was barely heard of a fortnight ago.
Now it’s the hot topic of conversation across the nation.
And of course in their home town of Euiseong too, famous for garlic farming where thousands gathered at a local gymnasium to watch the final from a large projector and cheer on Pancake, Yogurt, Steak, Cookie and Sunny, the nicknames the girls chose to avoid confusion as they all share the same surname, Kim.
Friends and families of the curlers packed the gym, where banners proclaimed: “Let’s dig for gold with the same strength we dig for garlic!”
— Anna Fifield (@annafifield) February 25, 2018
Under the assured guidance of Skip Kim (Yogurt) Korea were smart out of the blocks, bagging the first point but the Swedes were 3-1 ahead by the fourth end.
With charismatic Kim biting her lip pensively her opposite number Hasselborg secured another point to put the Swedes 4-1 up at the halfway point of the 10-end game.
Team Kim pulled one back after the restart but their dream was dealt a hammer blow with Sweden picking up three points in the seventh end to make it 7-2.
Urged on by noisy support from the near 3,000-crowd at the Gangneung Curling Centre the Koreans nicked a point to go 7-3 but the Swedes got two in the next and skip Kim extended her hand to her opposite number to concede the final.
Swedish skip Hasselborg paid tribute to Team Kim, and said the welcome they had received in Korea had helped them take gold.
“We love Korean BBQ, therefore we love Korea!” she smiled.
“We’ve felt so at home in the Olympic village, all the volunteers are so smiley and nice and helpful that it’s helped us to be on top form this week.”
Japan defeated Britain to claim the bronze medal.
Russian athletes will not be able to march behind their flag at the Pyeongchang Winter Games closing ceremony after the IOC voted unanimously to keep the country’s ban for mass doping.
But the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said the suspension could be lifted later if no further positive drug tests come out of the Games, after two Russians tested positive for doping in Pyeongchang.
Russia was banned in December from taking part in the 2018 Olympics following revelations of widespread drug-cheating, but 168 athletes deemed “clean” were allowed to compete as neutrals.
They were representing “Olympic Athletes from Russia” under strict guidelines including a ban on Russia’s national flag, national colours and the Russian national anthem.
The vote to keep the ban followed a recommendation from the IOC’s executive board, which met Saturday and early Sunday to thrash out Russia’s fate.
The IOC “could have considered lifting the suspension given that the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) had respected the IOC’s decision of December 5,” IOC president Thomas Bach said.
“However, two Russian athletes tested positive for doping here in Pyeongchang.
“This was hugely disappointing and does not permit the IOC to envisage lifting the suspension of Russia for the closing ceremony.”
The IOC vote means that Russia will never be recorded as having taken part in the Pyeongchang Games despite the fact that the 168 Russians represented the fourth biggest delegation at the Games.
Nicole Hoevertsz, the IOC member who led a group charged with monitoring the behaviour of the Russians at the Games, praised their conduct.
“They have followed the spirit of the executive board decision (of December) throughout the entire period of the Games,” she said.
However, taking into account the two doping violations at the Games, she recommended that the ban be kept because they represented a “violation” of the executive board guidelines for the OAR’s participation.
Russians Alexander Krushelnitsky, a bronze medallist in mixed doubles curling, and bobsledder Nadezhda Sergeyeva were kicked out of the Pyeongchang Olympics after testing positive for banned substances.
Stanislav Pozdnyakov, head of the Russian delegation, had earlier blamed “negligence rather than malicious intent” for the positive tests in a bid to have the suspension lifted for Sunday’s closing ceremony.
The Russian situation, stemming from systemic doping culminating at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, overshadowed the build-up to Pyeongchang with dozens of Russian athletes filing legal challenges in a bid to take part in the games.
Just hours before the opening ceremony on February 9, 47 Russians implicated in doping lost a last-minute court bid to compete in South Korea.
Russia’s suspension in December follows the uncovering of a doping conspiracy that involved secret agents at Sochi, where host nation Russia topped the medals table.
Investigations revealed an elaborate ploy where tainted Russian urine samples were switched with clean ones overnight using a “mousehole” in the wall of the Sochi anti-doping laboratory.
Russia has denied any government links to the conspiracy. But the IOC has suspended its former sports minister, Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko, for life.
Double Olympic champion Ester Ledecka said on Sunday that she was “too crazy” to be a role model after becoming the first woman to capture gold medals in different sports at the same Winter Games.
The Czech stunned the world of alpine skiing by winning the women’s super-G, in what was one of the biggest shocks in Winter Olympic history, and completed the double when she won snowboarding parallel giant slalom on Saturday.
Asked whether she was a role model, Ledecka replied: “No, better not, Really!
“I’m not a very good example, I’m too crazy!”
US stars Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin both called Ledecka an inspiration for the next generation of athletes after her unprecedented dual victory.
“As long as they have fun with what they’re doing and have the courage to stand by decisions and just go, then it’s possible for everyone,” Ledecka said.
“But not everyone wants to choose two sports.
“I had luck that I had a lot of people watching my back, my family supports me. Doing two sports is very expensive and it took some time for me to be able to pay my own team. I’m very grateful for how it is right now.”
The two-time world snowboarding champion also dismissed the notion that she had revolutionised the way women might now ski after her gung-ho approach to alpine racing that saw her beat out Austrian Anna Veith by a hundredth of a second in the super-G.
“I really don’t think about it this way to be honest. These two girls are very inspiring, I’ve been watching Lindsey since I was a little child and Mikaela since she started to race the World Cup,” Ledecka said.
“I love their style of riding and I hope to be as good as them.”
The use of the word “riding” made her ski coach Tomas Bank bristle.
“We don’t say riding, we say skiing!” Bank chided.
There has traditionally been little love lost in the age-old rivalry between skiing and snowboarding, the latter long seen as newcomers who have muscled in on the mountain scene.
“With the snowboarders on this side,” she said pointing to her snowboard coach Justin Reiter, “I say, ‘Damn skiers!’
“On this skiing side with Tomas I say, ‘Damn snowboarders!'” she added, suggesting she was not the conduit for remedying the apparent disconnect between the two sports.
That was reinforced by her tweet after winning the super-G, arguably contender for one of the best of the Games.
“Austria: We are the best in super-G! Swiss: No, we are the best! USA: Shut up, we are the best! Italia: Mamma mia! Ledecka: Hold my beer … and snowboard.”
Ledecka said her “biggest advantage” was that she was continuing to enjoy herself.
“As long as I have fun, as long as I do this for myself, I think it’s a good way and very special. Not all the girls have this all the time.
“As long as I’m on a hill, I feel like it’s home.”