(LEAD) (Olympics) Koreas-hockey



(LEAD) (Olympics) Koreas-hockey 
(LEAD) (Olympics) Regulars return to practice for joint Korean hockey team
(ATTN: CHANGES photo; ADDS details)
By Yoo Jee-ho
   GANGNEUNG, South Korea, Feb. 6 (Yonhap) -- Regular members of the Korean women's hockey team returned to practice here Tuesday, with the squad's first game at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics only four days away.
   The 35 players -- 23 from South Korea and 12 from North Korea -- arrived in Gangneung, the site of all hockey games during the Olympics, around 1 a.m. Monday, hours after losing to Sweden 3-1 in their first game together.
   Just after noon Monday, mostly the players who didn't dress for Sunday's game practiced at Kwandong Hockey Centre, where all of Korea's group stage games will be played.
   And most of those who skipped Monday's first practice returned to the ice at Kwandong on Tuesday.
   Korea was only scheduled to train from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., but head coach Sarah Murray added two new slots: from 1:15 p.m. to 2 p.m. and again from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.
   It wasn't immediately clear why she added two extra sessions. Murray and her players left the rink without speaking to reporters after the first practice.
   The first session featured 22 players, including South Korean mainstays like captain Park Jong-ah and first line center Grace Lee, along with five North Koreans. Of those five, Jong Su-hyon, Ryo Song-hui, Kim Un-hyang and Hwang Chung-gum played against Sweden, and forward Choe Jong-hui joined them in Tuesday's first practice.
   Choe played on the top North Korean line at last year's International Ice Hockey Federation Women's World Championship Division II Group A tournament here in Gangneung. Choe was named the Player of the Game in North Korea's 4-2 victory over Slovenia.

   The second session only lasted an hour at the practice rink, adjacent to the main arena. Murray was absent, as 11 players, including seven North Koreans, worked with South Korean assistant Lee Kyou-sun and North Korean coach Pak Chol-ho.
   The players again left the rink without answering reporters' questions. Lee only said it was up to Murray to change training schedules or decide which players would practice in which sessions.
   Korea will have more "two-a-days" the rest of the week. For Wednesday, the team's original schedule was to train from 12:45 p.m. to 2 p.m. After rescheduling, Korea will train from 12:45 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. and then from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
   On Thursday, it will be 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m., and again from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The following day, the eve of its first game, Korea will practice from 12:45 p.m. to 2 p.m. and from 2:15 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
   These 35 players have been together since Jan. 25, five days after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) approved an inter-Korean agreement on the joint team. After working with the two groups separately for a couple of days, Murray brought all 35 together for joint practices starting Jan. 28.
   South Korea is ranked 22nd in the world, three spots above North Korea.
   The joint team's first game is against world No. 6 Switzerland at 9:10 p.m. on Saturday, with fifth-ranked Sweden up next at 9:10 p.m. next Monday. The final group match is against ninth-ranked Japan at 4:40 p.m. on Feb. 14.
   The Koreas have had joint teams in table tennis and youth football at world championships but have never assembled unified squads in any sports in the Olympic Games.


AEN20180206008251315_02_i.jpg AEN20180206008251315_03_i.jpg