China break all-Korean hearts in women’s basketball thriller
By Kiki Siregar – Agence France-Presse
China dashed the Unified Korea’s hopes of an emotional women’s basketball gold medal when they won a tense final 71-65 at the Asian Games on Saturday.
Lim Yung-hui top-scored with 24 points in a losing cause as China pulled away from 38-38 at half-time before holding off the Koreans in the final quarter.
Park Ji-su was tearful after the game as the Korean team, featuring players from both sides of the heavily fortified Korean border, came up short.
“As a player… I am disappointed,” Park said, breaking into tears.
“All our team-mates played very well. It was a close game,” she sobbed.
Lim and coach Lee Moon-kyu said the squad, which only came together shortly before the Games, hadn’t had enough time to practise together.
“I feel sorry because we weren’t able to live up to the expectations of the Korean people,” said Lim.
“We have been able to participate in the Asian Games as a joint team, and it has been a special time for us. Also it was a meaningful time because the South and North were one,” she added.
The Koreans were supported throughout the tournament by vocal fans brandishing blue and white Korean unification flags and wearing “One Corea” T-shirts.
Despite the loss, the Korean fans were still celebrating after the match, waving their flags and applauding the players.
“At first I heard that there were difficulties because of the language difference and so I was worried when I came,” said Park, who plays in the WNBA.
“But having spent a month with the other players I could understand them all and there was no problem with communication. And because we’re all around the same age, we bonded easily.”
She added: “I’m so thankful for all the fans here, and because of that I would like us to gather again.”
The two Koreas marched together at the opening ceremony and also formed joint teams in canoeing, in which they won a gold and two bronze medals.
It follows similar gestures at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, which set the stage for an unprecedented thaw in relations between the two countries still technically at war.