Ice hockey coach Sarah Murray describes her experience with the inter-Korean team (Canada / Korea)
Until the inter-Korean women?s ice hockey team was created, barely anyone had heard of Sarah Murray. First appointed as the head coach of the Korean women?s ice hockey team in September 2014, Murray has slowly worked away in the background to develop the players to a level that would allow them to qualify for the PyeongChang Olympics. Once the decision was made to create a unified team, Murray and her players suddenly became one of the most talked about people at the Games.
For some, the Korean women?s ice hockey team were the victims of political maneuvering, the cost of a possible rapprochement between the two Koreas. Disagreement over the decision to create the team reached a height when Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon justified the team?s creation, saying they were ?not in contention for a medal.?
Although Lee?s comment proved to be true – the team lost all five of its games – the unlikely squad gained a strong fan following and the South Korean players built friendships with their North Korean counterparts.
Murray was only 26 years old when she started coaching the Korean women?s ice hockey team in 2014. Though she comes from a hockey family – her father Andy Murray is the former head coach of the Canadian men?s ice hockey team and her brothers played in the National Hockey League (NHL) – it wasn?t easy for her to take over the role of head coach after years as a player.
The JoongAng Ilbo, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily, met with Murray at Jincheon National Training Centre in North Chungcheong on March 12 to talk about her experience with the inter-Korean team. Murray, who has recently renewed her contract, had just held the first training session for Korean women?s first team since the PyeongChang Games. Below are edited excerpts of the interview.
Q. How do you feel about the Olympics and what did it mean to you?
A. Now that it?s over, it?s hard to believe that it actually happened, that the North came and we were combined. It?s still shocking to me that it happened. What an honor for us and we brought so much attention to the game, not only in Korea but in the world. Everyone was watching and talking. It was great for the sport. I think in Korea, too, we got a ton of interest.
What was the most impressive moment at the Olympics?
I think obviously Randi [Griffin] getting that first goal was huge for us. Like the pressure was almost worth it for us that we got the first goal. Especially against Japan, it?s always nice. But I think a lot of moments were not on the ice, just our players interacting and coming together. There was a really special moment here at the training center in a video meeting when our players started teaching the North players. They started talking and started trusting each other. I think that moment was more special than anything. Scoring is good but I think that moment where the team started talking and coming together, it was really good.
You?ve been here for four years. Before the Olympics, most people didn?t know who you were and now, everyone knows who you are. Do you think that you had the most benefit from the inter-Korean team?
I think it?s weird. When people ask for a picture with me, I ask them, ?are you sure you want a picture with me?? I don?t know. I didn?t make the decision for the team to be combined. And our players are really the ones that made it work so I kind of felt uncomfortable when people were giving me so much attention.
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