That was just extraordinary.
No-one, no one conceived anything like that. Unruh taking out the much-fancied Tan Ya-Ting who collapsed in the last 16. Unruh? And then that fabulous, unreal match when Alejandra Valencia, the giant killer, thumped Choi Misun 6-0, to deafening roars across the concrete, and everything turned upside down.
Both Choi and Ki seemed to have every expectation strapped to their backs like a millstone. Neither of them seemed entirely comfortable in any elimination match. I predicted earlier Choi would not get the final gong, but I thought Ki would step up and deliver like she has so many times, when it seems effortless.
But the pressure on them, internal or external, was just ridiculous. Chang’s shot was on point leading in to the business end and seemed to have so much less on her shoulders, although you could see the fear in her face backstage when Misun fell apart. I like to think that I’m a sympathetic, empathetic soul, but I’m still bummed that this flash quote, taken immediately after by my GSOH student reporter, got spiked by the desk:
It’s a lot of time to be out here, a long, long time to maintain concentration. Worse, there was a four-hour gap between the 1/16 rounds and the machine-gun rounds of the quarter-finals onwards, the train that goes where it goes with no more time to think. I’m guessing a lot of brooding went on in that gap. Too many thoughts, two weeks of being away in Rio, too much waiting, too many ghosts. And it left time for a capricious, djinn-like wind to grow strong and start throwing things about even more.
Choi and Ki left it somewhere else. The team medal means a great deal, but the individual title is everything to the Korean women. A chance to step up with the gods. Collectively, they still top the world; individually, the pressure to live up to the legacy was too great.
Ki kinda, almost guardedly acknowledged as much in the soft-soap press conference afterwards, at which the only minor frisson came when Chang was asked if she was going to retire after these Games. A wry smile went across her face, before she replied, in the flat tones of the translator, “That is something I’ve never thought of.”
Lisa Unruh and Alejandra Valencia brilliantly derailed the train, and Chang Hyejin, the ‘third’, the hard worker, the unlucky one, a deeply religious woman and an proud, gutsy athlete, went out there and did it. There was an aggressive snap to her shot today, a sense of power. She knew it was good.
And a special well-done to Lisa Unruh. Kept her head when all about were losing theirs, and picked up a big gong for it.
And they’re still letting me in the call room. I guess I’m there for the duration now. Last day tomorrow. Thanks for reading. -John
(Colour version of the above pic here).