UISEONG, South Korea, Feb 23 (Reuters) - At a high school in Uiseong, South Korea’s new capital of curling, more than 300 hundred fans gathered around the big screen to watch their beloved ‘Garlic Girls’ edge one step closer to an Olympic triumph with a place in the final.
The countryside farming region, famed for its garlic production, is home to four of the five-member South Korea women’s curling team, who have become internet sensations with their unlikely run to an Olympic gold medal showdown.
On Friday, the team put their legion of supporters in Uiseong - where the fans practised their own curling skills before the start of the semi-final - through a roller-coaster of emotion before finally edging Japan 8-7 after an extra end.
“My hands were sweating because it was such a tight game but I’m thrilled now because we are through to the final and we will win the gold,” curling fan Go Kyung-soo said after watching at the high school in Uiseong.
The ‘Garlic Girls’ will face Sweden at the Gangneung Curling Centre on Sunday having already secured the country’s first Olympic curling medal.
Their fairytale run has been celebrated on social media by fans posting memes and parody videos, with floor mops and robot vacuum cleaners.
However, the viral videos and team exploits have not quite turned everyone into curling experts in Uiseong, where the team train at the country’s oldest curling arena.
Kim Won-hee, 92, grandmother to ‘Garlic Girls’ skipper Kim Eun-jung, said she was so proud of her Olympian relative but still confused by the sport.
“At first I didn’t even know what curling was but her parents were busy giving her rides there (to the arena) and back and she kept coming back with medals, but I couldn’t understand what it was. Granny didn’t know.
“I still don’t understand what they are doing.” (Reporting by Hyun Oh and Lucien Libert; Editing by Patrick Johnston)