Unified Korea in show of power

Chinese Taipei's Peng Szu-chin being defended by Unified Korea's Park Ji-su (right) and Ro Suk Yong in yesterday's semi-final.
Chinese Taipei's Peng Szu-chin being defended by Unified Korea's Park Ji-su (right) and Ro Suk Yong in yesterday's semi-final.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

JAKARTA • The Chinese Taipei women's basketball team did not know what hit them.

But, to the rest of the world, it was another glimpse into what two countries can achieve if they put their minds and hearts together after the Unified Korea team steamrollered their opponents 89-66 to reach the Asian Games final yesterday.

With the team roared on by around 100 fans waving Korean unification flags, the manner of the blowout victory was achieved through customary northern grit and some Las Vegas razzmatazz.

North Korean Ro Suk Yong was joint top scorer with 17 points, while beanpole centre Park Ji-su chipped in with 10 points - one of six Koreans in double figures - in her first game since being released by Women's National Basketball Association team, Las Vegas Aces.

As chants of "Uri nun hana da" - "we are one" - echoed around the arena, the Koreans were sparked by a captain's performance from Lim Yung-hui - who at 38 is old enough to be the mother of some of her team-mates.

Both Lim and Park Hye-jin contributed 17 points in a one-sided contest.

Forward Kim Han-byul, who was born to a Korean mother and an American father in the United States, said: "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It's definitely historical - just the fact that the North Korean girls are able to play with us."

Ro, one of three Pyongyang-based players on the team, also had the travelling Korean media eating out of her hand after the game.

Chinese Taipei coach Albert Wagner was less than enthralled at the modern-day version of the ping-pong diplomacy that brought the US and China closer in the 1970s.

"Obviously it would be great if it were for the right reasons and not just to get good players," said the American. "It would be historical if they came together as a country, not just as a convenience."

South Korea were supposed to be the defending champions but Unified Korea will be picking up that mantle in tomorrow's final against China, who outgunned Japan 86-74 in the other semi-final.

"It's been a hard road to get to the final," said Shao Ting, the China captain and forward who scored 16 points. "We will cherish this precious opportunity to take home a gold medal."

On the track, Nigerian-born Edidiong Odiong picked up her third gold when she led Bahrain to the women's 4x100m relay title, ending China's hold on the event.

The Chinese had won the last seven of eight golds in the 4x100m, but had to be satisfied with silver after the Bahrain team won in a Games record of 42.73 sec.

Japan secured the gold in the men's 4x100m relay in 38.16sec with a team that included three of the four sprinters who came second at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2018, with the headline 'Unified Korea in show of power'. Print Edition | Subscribe