South Korea’s female water polo team have lost their first two games at the world championships by an eye-watering aggregate score of 94-1 – but they celebrated their goal as if they had won gold.
After suffering a record 64-0 defeat by Hungary in their Group B opener at the weekend, the plucky hosts were battered 30-1 by 2017 bronze medallists Russia on Tuesday.
But despite another lopsided result, goalscorer Kyung Da-seul was the toast of Gwangju after finding the net in the final quarter to trigger tearful scenes.
The 18-year-old said she would cherish the memory but was sad not to keep the ball as a memento.
“I’d love to have the ball but I have no idea where it’s gone,” Kyung told local media.
“I’d be grateful if someone found it for me.”
Footballers get to keep the match ball when they score a hat-trick and baseball players often keep the ball they hit for their first career run or homer – if they can trade a signed bat or other memorabilia to get it back.
Kyung went home without her ball but was nevertheless feted as if she had hit the winning run in baseball’s World Series.
“When I took the shot I didn’t think it was going to go in,” revealed Kyung. “But I gave it everything I had. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates.”
South Korea only managed to rustle up a team a month before the start of the competition, calling on former swimmers, with all but captain Oh Hee-ji still in their teens.
Their dogged determination evoked memories of Equatorial Guinean swimmer Eric “The Eel” Moussambani, who clung to the lane rope at the 2000 Sydney Olympics in his first dip in a 50-metre pool before making it to the wall as the crowd erupted.
“Our coaches told us that we’re here to show people that we’re ready to battle hard,” Kyung added.
“They also said we grew so much after the first game – we shed many tears of joy.”
Korean-American Ryan Hanna Yoon promised there was more to come from the hosts.
“It was really emotional because we’ve been going through a lot,” she said. “The goal means everything for us. We’re just beginners in water polo.”
Asked about her hopes for their next game against Canada on Thursday, Yoon smiled: “Scoring more and having them score less.”