North and South Korea had not faced each other across the table tennis net since 2001.
So their quarter-final match-up in the ITTF World Team Championships in Sweden was hotly anticipated.
But it didn’t happen.
Instead, in an extraordinary turn of events, the teams announced that they did not want to compete against each other.
Instead, they will form a unified Korean team to compete in the semi-finals on Friday.
There was little sense of the drama that was about to unfold when both Koreas walked out into the Halmstad Arena.
Everything appeared normal as the tracksuited teams lined up and shook hands prior to their last eight encounter.
But once the formalities were over, an announcement was made.
The players gathered together as it was revealed that they did not wish to play against each other.
Rather than contest the quarter-final, they had agreed to join forces and progress to the semis automatically.
This latest move was enthusiastically received by ITTF President Thomas Weikert.
“When I informed the Board of Directors about this development, the unified team received a standing ovation from the delegates who showed their sign of support to this historic move,” – Thomas Weikert
The last time a unified Korea team played the world table tennis championship was in 1991, where the women’s team captured a shock win over China in the final.
“It’s really unbelievable, but now we are a united team. Actually, I don’t know what I’m feeling now, because I heard about this news last night, but at that time, it was still unclear if it is going to happen. I’m really surprised,” said South Korea’s Suh Hyowon.
Suh continued: “I saw a movie about the united team in 1991. I feel a little bit strange that I’m in the united team now, and I hope we can make something like it was in the movie.”
North Korea’s Rio 2016 bronze medallist Kim Song I added:
“I was surprised about the power of the united team (in 1991). Who knew then that they could beat China at that time? So now we are together, and I believe now that we can do anything.”
This latest development comes hot on the heels of the history-making PyeongChang 2018, where both teams marched together at the Opening Ceremony.
The two Koreas also joined forces to field a combined women’s ice hockey team at those Winter Olympics.
Japan or Ukraine now await in the last four in Halmstad, with both teams seated at the bench during the match as a sign of unity.