Eun Jung Kim’s South Korean rink caught a flight from a bonspiel in Sweden, arriving in Vernon just in time for the $63,000 Prestige Hotels & Inns Curling Classic Thursday afternoon.
Still weary from travel, Kim, supported by third Kyeong Ae Kim, second Seon Young Kim and lead Young Mi Kim, stumbled through her opening draw against Edmonton’s Chelsea Carey, scraping out a 6-4 win when Carey missed on her final stone.
Somewhat rested by Friday morning, the Korean foursome forced early handshakes with a 10-0 thrashing of Kamloops’ Amanda Russett. They racked up a five-ender in the fifth end, and put the game out of reach with a single steal in six.
They went to 3-0 Friday night, fending off a late charge by Nanaimo’s Kesa Van Osch to earn a 6-5 win. Kim and Winnipeg’s Kerri Einarson and Regina veteran skip Michelle Englot were the only remaining undefeated rinks heading into action Saturday.
Using her limited English, the 24-year-old Kim chuckled: “Absolutely perfect,” knowing they were any but in their opening draw.
Patti Wuthrich, a former Canadian champion (back then, she was Patti Vande), has been a coaching consultant with the Koreans for the past two seasons.
“They were fortunate to win last night’s game (against Carey),” said Wuthrich, a native of Gimli, Man. “Today, they went out knowing they had to be a little bit more focussed. They were like robots; they played very well today.”
With the 2018 Winter Olympics coming to Pyeongchang, Korea is looking to boost its curling portfolio. With just one club and two rinks throughout the entire country, they have some serious work ahead of them.
Kim entered the sport eight years ago through a high school curling program. She and her teammates have been touring World Curling Tour events the past three seasons, including a 2012 entry in the Vernon spiel, to get playing time against world-calibre rinks.
“It’s getting bigger,” said Kim, of the Korean curling scene.
Preliminary play for the women’s draw wrapped up Saturday night. Playoffs go today, with the semifinals at noon and championships game at 3 p.m.
In addition to CTRS (Canadian Team Ranking System) points, the winners pockets $7,500, runners-up collect $5,500 and third- and fourth-place rinks each earn $4,000. Fifth through eighth take come $2,500.