GANGNEUNG, South Korea—After all the Pomp and Circumstance from the Opening Ceremonies, there was a belief that the International Paralympic Committee didn’t have any more pageantry up their sleeves. But as Wheelchair curling opened, darkness took to the arena and the team matches were announced with the flags of each country projected with bright sleek graphics onto the sheets. The believers were proven wrong.

For Team USA and Team Korea, they were on the third sheet, sheet C.  Captains Jaegoan Cha and Kirk Black started the handshake line in good sportsmanship. Black then took his squad into the huddle and told his team, “”We needed to execute, we wanted to do our best,” continuing, “We needed to get rid of the jitters and just have some fun out there.”.

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Prior to the match, the two team’s huddle up to prepare for battle. PHOTO CREDIT: Michael A. Clubine

It was Justin Marshall, Steve Emt and Penny Greely who were the first shooters for the United States. For South Korea, it was the lineup of Soonseok Seo, Jaegoan Cha, and Dongha Lee. At the end of the first frame, it came down to the final stone from each team. The United States’ Steve Emt put one stone on the street close to the red circle, only to be barrelled out by an improbable shot by Cha to avoid two stones at the top and hit the closest one out. Kirk Black decided to take the last throw and he was off by an inch. The score remained scoreless after one round of play.

It stayed close in the second round, but the Koreans took a 1-0 lead when they swarmed the rings landing three, but the United States on their last two stones were able to knock out 2 from counting. In the third Black let out a tremendous shot for Team USA, ricocheting against one of his own red stones into the center of the target zone. However, Cha, not to be outdone, split the two United States lead stones and knocked Kirk Black’s shot out of the street. Korea was up after 3.

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From Left To Right: Team USA’s Captain Kirk Black, Penny Greely, Steve Emt, Justin Marshall (mostly obstructed) and Team South Korea’s Seungwon Jung. PHOTO CREDIT: Michael A. Clubine

It was a sign of things to come. Seo all but sealed the deal on a 5-point 5th frame knocking out the line Team USA stone in the double circle. The score because 6-1 in favor of the host nation. After increasing the lead to 7-1 on the next frame, Team USA would not go gently into that good night, with a shot from Marshall that nailed the bullseye. The score after seven rounds was 7-3 in favor of Korea.

It all came down to the 8th round. It looked as if the United States would mount their comeback with the team about to lie 2 in the middle ring, but Seungwon Jung ended it with a double take-out bouncing of the USA stones. It was over with a handshake.

When asked about the decision not to forfeit and keep playing after the 6th, Captain Black said, “It’s still 2 ins… 2 ins and anything can happen! So, you don’t die till you run outta stones and that’s the way the game’s played. We’ve had games where it’s 7 to 1 and that’s just 2 outs and an in and that’s all it takes.”

Team USA member Steve Emt furthered Kirk Black’s thoughts saying, “At that point of the game it’s just you trying to throw stones and at the second I let that stone go I felt good and then it went exactly where I wanted, but you have to just look forward to the next game.”

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Team USA’s Steve Emt before the Match against Korea on Saturday. PHOTO CREDIT: Michael A. Clubine

Tomorrow, the United States has a double header first at 9:30 AM Korea Time against Germany and then 7:30 PM against Sweden.

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