History was made Wednesday morning when Randi Griffin scored the first-ever goal for the unified Korea women’s ice hockey team in a game against rival Japan.
The hometown fans were loud everytime Korea touched the puck. But, after 149 minutes and 31 seconds of waiting, Griffin scored and Kwandong Hockey Centre erupted.
"It's incredible after all the pressure and everything that's happening to our team, to get a goal and actually win that (second) period," Griffin’s coach Sarah Murray remarked. "It felt really good."
The North Carolina native didn’t think her goal was particularly skillful. She called it a “crappy shot” that got a “lucky bounce.” But that fortunate bounce is something to celebrate for Team Korea.
The Koreans had back-to-back 8-0 losses, but they entered the game against Japan hopeful that they could beat their self-deemed rival. Despite being ranked 9th in the world, Japan had never won an Olympic game in three tournaments. The proximity of the two countries to each other also lends itself to a friendly rivalry.
"This game was the most important game personally to our team in these Olympics," Griffin said. "I would say the games against Japan more than anything else have been something that have brought North and South Koreans together."
Griffin was eligible to play for the Korean team because her mother is from South Korea. Her mom moved the United States in the 1980's where Griffin was born and raised. Griffin started ice hockey at age 10. She was a tomboy when she was younger, and when her mom suggested figure skating, Griffin countered with ice hockey after watching boys play the sport.
Griffin isn’t just all brawn. She attended Harvard University where she played hockey. She earned a degree in human evolutionary biology. She originally finished playing hockey competitively after graduating from Harvard to focus on her PhD at Duke University.
In 2015, she was invited to join the Korea team to participate in the host country’s inaugural hockey tournament at the Winter Games. Even though Griffin’s team wasn’t able to pull off the underdog win against rival Japan, it is likely they will have another chance for victory.
The two teams are likely destined to play in the final seventh-eighth place classification game.