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Updated: September 16, 2009 15:17 IST

Clean Koreans

K. Keerthivasan
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Korean Basketball players during a practice session at JJ Indoor stadium in Chennai on Wednesday. Photo: K. Pichumani
The Hindu Korean Basketball players during a practice session at JJ Indoor stadium in Chennai on Wednesday. Photo: K. Pichumani

By now, India would have gobbled up many details about Korea, its first opponent, in the Asian women’s basketball championship. What perhaps, it might have failed to notice, is the team’s fetish for cleanliness and one it could possibly learn from.

The moment the Korean coach Lim Dal Shik entered the J.J. Indoor Stadium on Wednesday morning with his team for regular practice session, he sported a smirk for he certainly didn’t like the way the basketball court was infested with dirts — black marks and pigeon faeces and made his displeasure known.

“They are very careful about these things and don’t want to take chances,” says Deepika, liaison in-charge of the Korean team. “Whatever they do, they do it well.”

Curiously, a sports meet was held at the J.J. Indoor Stadium the previous day.

At one point of time, the assistant coach, with a broom in hand, was seen cleaning the minute dirt particles on the court. The practice sessions, nevertheless, went on uninterrupted. Starting with players passing the ball by running in a semi-circle, the coach turns his attention to shooting. Then the 12 players play a normal match.

Clearly the oldest member of the Korean team and now its captain, forward Jung Sun-Min, shows a detached involvement, moving in a clinical manner without indulging in theatrics or throwing around her weight. Towards the end of the practice session, Jung appears to have a pain in her right thigh and is immediately attended to by the trainer. After a few minutes, she is back indulging in free throws.

“Basketball queen of Korea” Jung, returning to the National team after a five-year gap then, had helped Korea to win the gold -- and thus a place in 2008 Beijing Olympics -- in the 22nd FIBA Asia Championship at Incheon two years ago. She was part of the team in Beijing when Korea reached the quarterfinals. However, her highpoint emerged in the 2000 Sydney Olympics when Korea entered the semifinals.

Giving her company in Chennai will be six others -- including the centre Ha Eun-joo and sharpshooter Beon Yeon-ha, who were part of the Incheon triumph. “She (Jung) is the basketball queen of Korea,” says Eun-joo. “She has a huge following in our country. It’s great that she has been playing for Korea for the last 18 years” she adds. On asked about her expectations from the championship, the 34-year-old Jung says, “I want to clinch the gold medal for my country.”

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