GANGNEUNG, South Korea (Reuters) - It is rare the United States and North Korea have reason to celebrate together but Randi Heesoo Griffin gave them one on Wednesday when she scored the united Korean women’s ice hockey team’s first and only Olympic goal in a 4-1 loss to Japan.
The historic tally by American-born Griffin was cheered by South Koreans inside the Kwandong Hockey Centre and sent North Korea’s “Army of Beauties”, an all-female cheerleading delegation, into a flag-waving frenzy.
The goal would also have been cheered in Griffin’s home town of Cary, North Carolina and perhaps even in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang.
A man dressed up as President Kim Jong Un, who was watching the game and identified himself as Howard, was suitably impressed.
Griffin, however, was less so, saying she just got lucky.
Still it was not without irony that the United States and North Korea, who are locked in a dispute over sanctions and a push for Pyongyang to negotiate an end to its nuclear weapons program, would have reason to celebrate a hockey goal.
“It doesn’t feel weird,” Griffin told reporters. “This is my team and I scored a goal for my team and I would also say that I am definitely not a hero it was a pretty crappy shot that took a couple of bounces and went into the net. I got lucky.”
Set up by a perfect feed from Park Yoon jung midway through the second period, Griffin moved up the right wing and managed to get a shot on Akane Konishi that dribbled through the Japan netminder’s pads.
“After all the pressure and everything that is happening to our team to get a goal felt really good,” said Korea’s Canadian coach Sarah Murray. “It was so loud after Randi scored we couldn’t hear each other talk on the bench.
“We just kind of gave each other a hug and refocused.”
Additional reporting by Dan Burns, Editing by Ed Osmond