Combined Koreas basketball team to play for Asian Games gold

A combined Koreas team reinforced by WNBA center Park Ji-su has reached the women’s basketball final at the Asian Games after an 89-66 win over Taiwan.

The team, featuring three North Koreans and nine players from the South, will take on either Japan or China for the gold medal after overturning their two-point overtime loss to Taiwan in the group stage.

Canoeists competing in three dragon boat crews won the first medals for the combined Koreas teams, including the first gold, and there are high expectations the basketball team will deliver another gold.

The South Koreans are defending champions and have been bolstered by players from the North.

Park Ji-su joined the group after completing her season with the Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA and made her first court appearance in the second quarter.

She finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

North Korean Ro Suk Yong, captain Lim Yung-hui and Park Hye-jin all had 17 points.

“This is a result that everyone achieved by playing together with one goal and one spirit,” Ro was quoted as saying by Yonhap, the South Korean news agency.

“Their support gives me lots of energy,” Ro said of the supporters who waved the “unification” flag and chanted for the Koreas during the game. “As we stay united, we went to the final. It makes me emotional.”

The canoe medals — a gold and two bronze — have been awarded to Korea, as the joint teams in rowing, canoeing and basketball have been named at the games.

After the women’s crew won the 500-meter title in the dragon boats, the folk song Arirang played instead of the official national anthem for North Korea or South Korea and the “unification” flag, which features the outline of the Korean peninsula in blue on a white background, was raised during the medal ceremony.

The medals are awarded to Korea — the name for the joint teams that are entered in rowing, canoeing and women’s basketball — rather than being added to the tally of either North or South Korea.

The Koreas, still technically at war after their 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice, have fielded 60 athletes in combined teams in the three sports along with larger contingents for their respective national squads.

In the first of 10 finals on the last day of track and field competition, Japan’s Hayato Katsuki won the 50-kilometer walk in 4 hours, 3 minutes and 30 seconds. Wang Qin of China was three minutes back in second place, and South Korea’s Joo Hyun-myeong took bronze.

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