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S. Korea women's hockey team coach misses practicing with N. Koreans

2018/03/21 16:53

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By Joo Kyung-don

SEOUL, March 21 (Yonhap) -- Nearly a month after the two Koreas' joint women's ice hockey team worked together at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, head coach Sarah Murray said Wednesday she misses working with the North Korean players.

Murray's 23 South Korean players were joined by 12 North Koreans on Jan. 25 to create a historic combined team for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. The Koreas had never before fielded a unified team in any sport at any previous Winter or Summer Olympics.

Murray said she and her players had some time off after the Olympics and enjoyed vacations with their families. She added, however, that they're currently back to business.

"We started training last week and we're preparing for the Worlds now," Murray said after the 23rd Coca-Cola Sports Awards in Seoul, where she and her team won the achievement award for their hard work at the PyeongChang Games. "After everything that happened at the Olympics, we just try to play and move forward."

  

South Korea women's national ice hockey team head coach Sarah Murray (4th from L) poses for a photo with her players during the 23rd Coca-Cola Sports Awards in Seoul on March 21, 2018. (Yonhap) South Korea women's national ice hockey team head coach Sarah Murray (4th from L) poses for a photo with her players during the 23rd Coca-Cola Sports Awards in Seoul on March 21, 2018. (Yonhap)

Unlike at the Olympics, Murray's side is now without North Koreans. The 29-year-old Canadian said she misses training with North Koreans.

"Right now, we have some injured players and having the North players would definitely help our roster have more numbers," she said. "But we just miss practicing with them. They brought a different level of intensity to practice and it was just fun to have them around."

   The joint Korean team lost all five games it played at the Winter Games, by a combined score of 28-2, but it delivered a message that sports can bring people together and help secure peace. Murray said that the message they sent out at the Olympics can continue.

"We hope that our team coming together could be a message of peace, hope and love out there," she said. "I hope that we've changed people's mind about the North and what sports can really do."

   Murray, who has been coaching South Korea since 2014, said it feels "weird" that she has become a celebrity in the country after the Olympics.

"I went to the para ice hockey game that (South) Korea won bronze in and in that atmosphere, a lot of people knew me," she said. "That was a little bit strange for me because I've been here for three years and before that nobody really knew much about our team."

  

This file photo taken Feb. 23, 2018, shows Sarah Murray, head coach of the joint Korean women's ice hockey team at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. (Yonhap) This file photo taken Feb. 23, 2018, shows Sarah Murray, head coach of the joint Korean women's ice hockey team at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. (Yonhap)

Murray said forming the joint team with North Korea turned out to be a good thing because she and her players got more recognition from fans.

"Initially, our players were little bit resistant to the North joining, but it ended up being a good thing because people knew we existed and we got a lot more fans," she said. "Hopefully through the North joining our team, we can get some young girls playing hockey because now people know hockey exists and it's fun to watch."

   The next stop for Murray's team is to win the 2018 International Ice Hockey Federation Women's World Championship Division I Group B tournament in Italy next month. South Korea will have to face Poland, China, Latvia, Kazakhstan and Italy.

"We want to advance out of our division because the girls want to qualify for Beijing 2022," she said. "I think if all of our players are healthy we have a good chance."

   kdon@yna.co.kr

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