(Olympics) Women's handball team determined to change narrative in Tokyo

유지호 / 2021-07-21 16:37:09
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(Olympics) S Korea-handball
▲ South Korean women's handball players carry their bags after landing at Narita International Airport in Narita, Japan, for the Tokyo Olympics on July 21, 2021. (Yonhap)

▲ Kang Jae-won, head coach of the South Korean women's handball team, walks toward an exit at Narita International Airport in Narita, Japan, after arriving for the Tokyo Olympics on July 21, 2021. (Yonhap)

▲ South Korean women's handball players carry their bags after landing at Narita International Airport in Narita, Japan, for the Tokyo Olympics on July 21, 2021. (Yonhap)

(Olympics) S Korea-handball

(Olympics) Women's handball team determined to change narrative in Tokyo

NARITA, Japan, July 21 (Yonhap) -- Gone are the days when South Korea was the Little Engine That Could in Olympic women's handball, the physically-overmatched team that fought tooth and nail against bigger European foes to reach the podium six times out of seven competitions from 1984 to 2008. That impressive run included consecutive gold medals over Norway in 1988 and 1992.

South Korea just missed out on a medal in 2012, losing to Spain 31-29 in extra time in the bronze medal match in London. South Korea didn't even make it out of the group stage four years later in Rio de Janeiro. The team that once inspired a box office hit is no longer seen as a medal contender.

Against this backdrop, the women's team for the Tokyo Olympics has been preparing for redemption with little fanfare. After arriving in Japan on Wednesday, head coach Kang Jae-won said he wants to change the narrative by the end of the Olympics next month.

"We arrived here quietly, but we can't wait to see how different things are going to be when we leave," Kang said. "We have a few holdovers from the 2012 Olympics here. We want to make up for that fourth-place finish this time."

Ryu Eun-hee, the team's captain and best player, was on both the 2012 and 2016 Olympic teams. Wounds of those near-misses are still too fresh for the 31-year-old, who said, "I don't want to experience that type of pain and sorrow again."

"I want to stay here until the last day of the competition," Ryu said. "I have some bumps and bruises here and there, but I am ready to do the best I can."

Her coach isn't messing around. The team left Narita International Airport in Narita, east of Tokyo, past 2 p.m. Wednesday, and Kang has scheduled practice for later in the day. South Korea, paired in Group A, will play a Group B team, Spain, in a tuneup game Thursday.

"We've come here fully prepared for the Olympics, and we're going to work around the edges over the final stretch," said Kang, whose team opens group action on Sunday against Norway. "In the game against Spain, we'll have a chance to review things that we've been working on, and it'll help us set a proper level of expectations for young players. We'll also test our quick attacks."

After Norway in the group stage, South Korea will play the Netherlands, Japan, Montenegro and Angola. The top four countries from the two groups will advance to the quarterfinals.

"If we can split the first two matches, then we should be able to reach the quarterfinals in a good position," Kang said. "But Norway won't be an easy team. They have a lot of speedy players."

(END)

(C) Yonhap News Agency. All Rights Reserved

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