by Simon Daish
Heading into the highly anticipated contest DPR Korea on paper had the odds stacked against them. Seeded six positions above their neighbours, Korea Republic took home bronze at London 2012 and finished one position lower at Rio 2016 – the opposition also held an impressive record of having qualified for the women’s team event at all previous iterations without fault.
As for DPR Korea the dream was to reserve a valuable ticket to a third consecutive Olympic Games, having reached the women’s team quarter-finals in both 2012 and 2016, while Kim Song I achieved bronze in the women’s singles on the latter occasion.
The opportunity to secure a ticket to Tokyo 2020 accompanied by difficult circumstances – DPR Korea would have to overcome a serious uphill challenge to achieve a most lucrative reward.
On the back foot right at the commencement of play but Kim Nam Hae and Cha Hyo Sim didn’t let it effect their morale and eventually the DPR Korea duo began to find their feet, recovering to steal the match-opening doubles encounter with victory over Choi Hyojoo and Shin Yubin (7-11, 11-7, 11-9, 12-10).
An ideal start for the lower seeded team was soon improved upon as Rio 2016 heroine Kim Song I produced a mighty display against defensive specialist Suh Hyowon (11-6, 7-11, 15-13, 12-10), doubling DPR Korea’s lead to 2-0.
In a first to three contest, Korea Republic had no more room for error and so up-and-coming talent Shin Yubin, 15 years old, was tasked with keeping her team in the race. Playing with tremendous pressure on her shoulders but teenage ace Shin showed great maturity in her performance, battling past Cha Hyo Sim (11-8, 9-11, 15-13, 11-1) to restore a glimmer of hope.
A small setback for DPR Korea but a setback nonetheless and in the world of sport the possibility of a comeback is always in the back of the mind. However, on this occasion there was to be no such recovery for Korea Republic as Kim Nam Hae came out on top against Suh Hyowon (9-11, 14-12, 12-10, 11-4) to complete a 3-1 win, securing DPR Korea’s ticket to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“Only participation at the Olympic Games has a great meaning. I was singles bronze medalist in 2016. Now we have qualified as a team, I would like to have even better results at the 2020 Olympic Games.” Kim Song I
A famous win for DPR Korea that will live long in the memory – as for Korea Republic, a place at Tokyo 2020 rests on how the team performs in the race for ninth position.