GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA Randi Griffin, a North Carolinian, scored the first Korean ice hockey goal in Winter Olympics history Wednesday.
Griffin, a forward for the Korean women’s unified hockey team scored in the second period, but it wasn’t enough as Japan defeated its Asian arch-rival 4-1 in a preliminary round match at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
“I’m definitely not a hero. It was a pretty crappy shot that took a couple of bounces and happened to go into the net,” Griffin told reporters after the game. “I got lucky.”
That said, Griffin added that the goal was a relief for a unified team that lost its first two games to Switzerland and Sweden by identical 8-0 scores.
“We don’t want to leave the Olympics not having scored a goal,”she said. “It feels great to have one under our belt.”
The daughter of a Korean mother and white father, Griffin was recruited by the Korea Ice Hockey Association shortly after the country was awarded the Winter Games.
Not an international hockey power, South Korea scoured U.S. and Canadian college rosters looking for players with Korean names to help build its roster.
Griffin played for Harvard University from 2006-07 to 2009-10. She tallied 21 goals and 18 assists in 124 games.
Ironically, Korean officials initially didn’t know about Griffin because of her last name. They learned about her from the parent of a Korean-Canadian player they were scouting.
Once they found about Griffin, 29, they immediately sent her an email inviting her to join their Olympic effort. But she thought the email was a scam and didn’t respond for months.
It wasn’t until KIHA officials contacted Griffin’s father, Thomas Griffin, that she responded. Both Griffin and the KIHA association are now glad that she did.
Randi Griffin was measuring monkey skulls for a doctorate at Duke in 2014 when she received an oddly-worded email from S. Korea’s Ice Hockey Association: Would she be interested in lacing up again? In ten minutes, she takes the ice to take on Japan.@hj257 https://t.co/Oial0l4nKX
— Jonathan Cheng (@JChengWSJ) February 14, 2018
She’s become a key part of a team made of 23 South Korean and 12 North Korean players – the first time athletes from the two countries have played on the same team in the Winter Games.
The merger was done only weeks before the Feb. 9-25 Winter Games in hopes of fostering unification talks between the two Koreas, or at least de-escalate tensions heightened by North Korea Leader Kim Jong-uns pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Griffin, a Duke University anthropology department graduate student, said Wednesday’s game was perhaps the most meaningful to the unified team.
“I would say the games against Japan more than anything else have been something that have brought North and South Koreans together because everyone is saying, ‘We really need to win this game,'” she said.
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