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South Korea’s ‘Garlic Girls’ curlers say coaches verbally abused them, excluded skip

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South Korea’s Olympic silver medal curling team — affectionately known as the “Garlic Girls” — want their coaches replaced, claiming they were verbally abusive, withheld prize money and excluded the team’s skip after the Winter Games, according to South Korean media.

“We would like to continue our training [for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics] without our current coaches and their influence,” the players wrote in their letter to the president of South Korea’s Olympic Committee, according to the Korea Herald. “Our coach Kim was hardly present while we were training for the Olympics. Whenever we made complaints about Kim to Kim Kyung-Doo, who is her father and the vice president of Korea Curling Foundation, he verbally abused us.”

One coach denied some claims, which South Korea’s Olympic Committee is investigating.

Skip Kim Eun-Jung, Kim Kyeong-Ae, Kim Seon-Yeong, Kim Yeong-Mi and Kim Cho-Hi were a revelation in PyeongChang, reaching the final after finishing seventh at the 2017 World Championship. South Korea had only one previous Olympic women’s curling appearance, placing eighth in Sochi.

All team members hailed from Uiseong, a farming area known for its garlic.

In the reported letter, the silver medalists wrote that their head coach, Kim Min-Jung, plus her husband and father, both curling officials, mistreated them. They said they were banned from using social media after the Olympics. And that coaches tried to “rule Kim Eun-Jung off the team” after she got married in July, according to the Korea Times.

Jang Ban-Seok, the head coach’s husband and the Olympic mixed curling team’s head coach, denied some claims.

He said prize money covered team expenses, and the curlers signed a financial agreement. He also said that since the skip was planning to get pregnant, they needed to find a replacement skip this summer.

“We’ve never trained in a way that would lead to a curler being kicked off the team,” Jang wrote, according to the Korea Times.

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North, South Korea progress unified Tokyo 2020 talks, 2032 Olympic bid

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South Korea reportedly asked North Korea to form joint Tokyo 2020 Olympic teams in six or seven sports, and the nations agreed to tell the International Olympic Committee officially of their 2032 Olympic bid intention on Friday.

In September, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-In said in a statement that the countries planned to jointly bid for 2032, and they would look to cooperate in major sports events such as the 2020 Games, without elaborating at the time.

Some more details emerged Friday, particularly regarding creating teams of North and South Korean athletes at the Tokyo Games.

“First of all, our athletes who’ve qualified for the Olympics should not suffer damages if unified teams are to be formed,” an unnamed South Korea Olympic Committee official said, according to Yonhap News Agency. “We also decided to minimize our requests for the IOC or international federations’ help. Instead of thinking about the results at the competitions, we will focus on the process of assembling unified teams that will show the two Koreas’ efforts moving toward one goal.”

The Koreas will send a unified team to the men’s handball world championship in January, it was announced last month.

In PyeongChang, the two nations marched together in the Opening Ceremony behind the Korea Unification flag and fielded a joint women’s hockey team. In the summer, they fielded joint canoeing, rowing and women’s basketball teams at the Asian Games.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Koreas to discuss unified 2020 Olympic gymnastics team, report says

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South Korea’s gymnastics federation plans to talk with North Korean officials about fielding a unified 2020 Olympic gymnastics team during next month’s world championships, according to Yonhap News Agency.

It would be the latest in a series of inter-Korean moves in Olympic sports this year, beginning with the joint Olympic women’s hockey team in PyeongChang.

The two nations also marched together in the PyeongChang Olympic Opening Ceremony behind the Korea Unification flag. Last month, they fielded joint canoeing, rowing and women’s basketball teams at the Asian Games.

Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-In said in a statement that the countries planned to jointly bid for the 2032 Summer Olympics, and they would look to cooperate in major sports events such as the 2020 Games, without elaborating.

In artistic gymnastics, South Korea has qualified men’s teams to the last seven Olympics, while North Korea last had a team at the 1980 Moscow Games. North Korea has the reigning Olympic vault champion, Ri Se-Gwang.

Neither North Korea nor South Korea had a full women’s team at any of the last three Olympics.

However in Rio, South Korean gymnast Lee Eun-Ju took a selfie with North Korean Hong Un-Jong as they trained for competition. The photo captured global headlines, and IOC president Thomas Bach described it as a “great gesture.”

The 2020 Olympic gymnastics team event fields will include 12 for the men and 12 for the women, with qualifying beginning at next month’s worlds in Doha.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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