Peter Gallant, the coach of the South Korea women’s curling team, is back home on P.E.I. after a breakout Olympic performance that saw the team — and him — become stars.
P.E.I.’s Peter Gallant returned from South Korea this week after coaching the home nation’s team to a surprise silver medal. (Matt Rainnie/CBC)
The South Korean team went 8-1 to secure a first-place finish in the round robin. They topped Japan in a thrilling semifinal before losing to the Swedes in the gold medal match.
“The atmosphere was amazing in the arena and you can imagine 3,000 Korean people watching curling and most of them didn’t understand the game and they were cheering every shot basically,” he said. “But I was most impressed with how the team responded to the home crowd and they were able to handle the pressures that came with being the home team.”
The South Korean team had been flying over Canadian teams to play against and decided in the lead-up to the Olympics they should get a full-time coach. They first met Gallant in Newfoundland and he started coaching them in 2016 for the next three seasons.
He’s been living almost full-time in a small town in South Korea for the past three years, his wife joining him for a few months a year, as well as travelling for tournaments around the world.
All that work paid off as the team blew past expectations and made clutch shots under pressure on their way to the country’s first medal in curling.
“I’ve had about 50 to 100 Facebook friend requests every day from Koreans that I’ve never heard before,” he said.
Gallant’s contract is over with the Olympics and he said it’s bittersweet to have to leave the team before the world championships later this year. But the silver medal was more than anyone expected and he’s proud of the team’s accomplishments.
“There were tears of disappointment after the game,” he said. “But they should be very proud to win a silver medal in a sport that isn’t common in the country and there’s been no success at all on that stage before.”