[Newsmaker] Meet Randi Heesoo Griffin: the figure who scored Korea joint ice hockey team’s first and only Olympic goal

After suffering two shutout losses against Switzerland and Sweden, the unified Korean women’s ice hockey team made Olympic history by scoring its first and only goal in its match against Japan on Wednesday.

Although Korea ended up losing to Japan in a 4-1 loss, the goal was celebrated by South Korean and American spectators as well as North Korea’s all-female cheerleading squad at the Kwandong Hockey Center.

Takeuchi Aina of Japan (left) in action against Randi Heesoo Griffin of Korea (right) during the Women’s Ice Hockey match between Korea and Japan at the Kwandong Hockey Center during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. (Yonhap)

Given the historic significance, the puck that was used for the tournament will be going to the Hockey Fall of Fame in Toronto, according to the competition’s organizing company Thursday.

Bringing the two Koreas’its landmark goal was Randi Heesoo Griffin, a US-born, half-Korean ice hockey player who played for the first ever joint North-South team at the Olympics.

Although the unified team is now out of the competition, Olympic watchers are keen to find out more about the player who saved Korea from returning home without any goals.

Who is Randi Heesoo Griffin?

Randi Heesoo Griffin was born and raised in North Carolina to an American father and South Korean mother who moved to the US in the 1980s.

Griffin, now 29, began playing hockey at 10 in Raleigh, North Carolina. She entered Harvard University in 2006 where she studied human evolutionary biology and played for the university’s women’s ice hockey team, the Crimson.

In the 125 games she played at Harvard from 2006-2010, she scored 21 goals with 18 assists for 39 points, according to The Harvard Gazette. During her senior year, Griffin was a finalist for the ECAC Hockey Student-Athlete of the Year Award.

After graduation, she went on to coach youth hockey in Raleigh in 2010 and began pursuing a Ph.D in evolutionary anthropology at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

In 2014, while pursuing her doctorate, Griffin received an email from the Korea Ice Hockey Association asking if she was interested in becoming a member of South Korea’s national women’s ice hockey team for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

The association had extended the invitation on the recommendation of Korean-Canadian hockey player Caroline Park, a Princeton University graduate who had previously played against Griffin.

Griffin was formally recruited into the team in 2015, and took a gap year to focus on training with the South Korean team ahead of the Winter Olympics. She was granted South Korean citizenship in 2017.

Following negotiations between the two Koreas, the International Olympics Committee approved the inclusion of North Korea in the PyeongChang Olympics.

It also announced the formation of a joint team in women’s ice hockey combining players from the North and South, generating controversy at a time of high political tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Historic goal and beyond

Despite bringing home the joint Korean women’s ice hockey team’s first and only goal at the Olympics, Griffin was modest about her achievement in her reflections after the game.

“As for me scoring that goal, it was kind of a lucky bounce that went in,” Griffin said during an interview with USA Today Sports. “Mostly I feel really proud that we gave (the Japanese) a run for their money.”

As for her recollections of the historic goal, Griffin remembers the thunderous cheering that had filled the Kwandong Hockey Center that evening.

“It was electric,” Griffin said during the interview. “That’s an awesome feeling. After the goal, the energy in the arena was something we were feeding off.”

Looking ahead, Griffin said she wants to help inspire and nurture more Korean ice hockey players in the future. According to media reports, Griffin, now a registered US hockey coach, is contemplating the option of coaching in Korea.

By Ji-young Sohn and Se-hwan Bak

(Korea Herald)