“I learned a lot from the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics as we played against top level countries,” said Park, who captained the Unified Korea team. “After the Olympics, I focused on getting stronger and improving my game skills.”
“We all have the same goal, to win all the games and play at the Beijing Olympics. The players that played at the PyeongChang Olympics hunger to play again in future Olympics.”
There are a number of players on the roster who were in PyeongChang, such as Heewon Kim, who captained Korea’s U18 national team in 2019 and had a strong showing at the 2019 Women’s World Championship program with four goals and two assists.
“The goal for the team is qualifying for the Olympics, without any doubts. If we participate in the Olympics on our own, it will affect positively on Korean women’s ice hockey,” said Kim. “For me, my personal goal is making more than five points. I want to be a player who helps the team.”
The team that will be competing in Nottingham is not a repeat of the PyeongChang squad however, with many fresh faces on the roster. Making their senior national team debuts are Sihyun Kang, Seohyung Kwak, Inhye Jang and Yejin Lee. Kang spent last season with the Ontario Hockey Academy and Kwak grew up playing hockey in the United States, whereas Jang and Lee make up the team’s goaltending duo. Both 16 years old, Jang and Lee are coached by legendary national team goalie So Jung Shin.
"We expect that we can play games with ease because we have many players who experienced big events like the Olympics,” said Kim. “[But] comparing this roster to the members at the 2018 Olympics, the average age of the team became lower. The 2018 Olympics roster also had many young players, but we have more young players now.”
At 25 years old, Park – who has represented Korea internationally for nearly a decade and has seen the program and sport go through many changes – is the oldest player on the roster, with most players being in their late teens or early twenties.
“We’ve changed a lot compared to the PyeongChang Olympics,” said Park. “Many younger players have joined. As they have passion and tenacity, they occupy a big part of our team.”
“Compared to 10 years ago, almost everything has changed. Ice hockey is not a popular sport in Korea, but after the Olympics, people know what ice hockey is and there are fans cheering for us.”
The Korean squad prepared for the Olympic Pre-Qualification tournament with a camp in Denmark, since restrictions on indoor sport in Korea remain tight. They will face Slovenia, Great Britain and Iceland from 7 to 10 October with the goal of securing a spot at one of the Final Olympic Qualification tournaments in November.
“We haven’t played games in almost two years,” said Kim. “It was a new feeling to be back on the ice together to prepare for qualification for the 2022 Beijing Olympics. I missed my team and playing games with them.”
Park and Kim are hungry to ensure that the legacy of hosting the 2018 Olympics in their home country lives on – and to get another chance to show the world what their team is capable of.