GANGNEUNG, South Korea — Three weeks before the South Korean women’s hockey team was set to make their own bit of history, a bombshell dropped.
News broke that South Korea and their bitter rivals to the North would unite at the Olympic Games. It was part political grandstanding, part opportunistic diplomacy and completely game-changing for the women’s team, who were forced to insert players from the North onto their Olympic roster.
It was a decision that left many uneasy at the time. But what about now that the Games are over? Two of the team’s imported players, Caroline Park from Toronto and Grace Lee from Boulder, Colo., had nothing but good things to say when they sat down with us and pulled the curtain back on the experience — even if there were some early concerns.
Like how do you bring new players up to speed on a system they don’t know, who communicate in a language that’s not their own, all the while dealing with the magnitude of the moment.
Turns out the answer is to just worry about hockey. According to Park and Lee, the North Koreans did just that — they were model teammates, came prepared to learn everyday and tried their hardest to fit in.
The results weren’t rewarded on the ice as South Korea went 0-5 in the tournament, but that’s besides the point. This was a historic event on several levels, and certainly one Park, Lee and the rest of the players won’t soon forget.
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