Matt Dalton
AP

South Korea’s Olympic ringers sing their way onto the team

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To earn a place on South Korea’s team for next year’s Olympics, you may need to brush up on your singing.

A rendition of the national anthem in front of immigration officials is a daunting but necessary hurdle faced by the many foreign-born athletes seeking to represent the home team at the Pyeongchang Games.

Alexander Gamelin, an ice dancer from Boston, has the anthem memorized and is reading up on Korean culture and history ahead of his immigration interview. The aim is to become a naturalized citizen, then a South Korean Olympian.

“He’s smart. He catches on pretty quick,” said Gamelin’s dance partner, California-born South Korean citizen Yura Min. “Honestly, I think Alex does know more than I do at this point.”

Without much of a winter sports tradition besides speedskating and women’s figure skating, South Korea is eager to use foreign talent to flesh out its Olympic roster.

That means Canadian veterans on the hockey team, a German in luge and Russians in biathlon. Since 2011, 20 athletes have been naturalized, according to the Justice Ministry. Not all will compete at the Olympics and few have hopes of a medal, but they’ll give South Korean fans someone to cheer for in unfamiliar sports.

And when Koreans cheer their own, they really cheer, as Gamelin found when competing in February on the Olympic ice.

“Yura and I were mobbed by all these Korean fans who wanted to take pictures and get autographs,” he said. “It was all a little overwhelming.”

Although Gamelin and Min live and train in the United States, he’s learning Korean at college and hopes to move to the Asian country as a coach in the future.

The last Winter Olympic host country, Russia, also recruited many foreigners ahead of the 2014 Sochi Games. Then the focus was firmly on winning.

Naturalized foreigners had a role in seven of the 13 gold medals which took Russia to the top of the medals table, including team events. One of them, South Korean speedskater Viktor Ahn — formerly Ahn Hyun-Soo — left with three golds.

Biathlete Timofei Lapshin said he’s now known as “the Russian Viktor Ahn” after making the switch in reverse.

Lapshin is a talented athlete, with a smattering of podium finishes on the World Cup circuit, but struggled to make the highly-competitive Russian team. After a super-fast naturalization process — he said the first enquiries were made only in September — he now holds a South Korean passport.

“I only know a few words (of Korean) here and there, but I’ll try to learn it and hope soon I’ll be able to speak,” said Lapshin, who has spent only about two months in his new country because of training and competitions elsewhere.

With Russia mired in doping scandals, including allegations of tampering with Olympic drug tests, there are calls for the country to be banned from next year’s Pyeongchang Games. Lapshin portrays the scandal as politically motivated against Russia.

“I hope that everything will be fine and no one will be suspended,” he said. “Politics shouldn’t be mixed with sport.”

The South Korean Olympic committee said biathlon officials in the country looked into its four new Russian-born biathletes by checking International Biathlon Union records, which showed that none of the four had ever tested positive. However, all four competed at elite level during a time when investigations have found drug use in Russia was rife.

For Lapshin or former world junior luge champion Aileen Frisch, South Korea offers a second chance for stalled careers. For journeyman hockey player Matt Dalton, it’s been an even wilder ride.

Dalton was in Russia during the last Olympics — not in Sochi, but playing for a club in the industrial city of Nizhnekamsk. He was a backup goaltender for the Boston Bruins, but never played a minute in the NHL, so Olympic glory wasn’t even on his radar.

Now, after three seasons in the South Korean league, he’s set to be a starting goaltender at the Olympics. Home fans will know him by the nickname Halla Sung — “protector of the castle.”

“I would have never thought it was possible in a million years,” Dalton said. “(In Russia) I got to see how the country rallies around the Olympics … To be able to be a part of something like that now is pretty special.”

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101-year-old woman wins gold medal at World Masters Games

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Man Kaur, a 101-year-old woman from India, won a gold medal at the World Masters Games by running the 100m in 74 seconds on Monday.

“I enjoyed it and am very, very happy,” Kaur told media, according to the Times of India, which added that she took up track and field eight years ago, at age 93. “I’m going to run again, I’m not going to give up. I will participate, there’s no full stop.”

Kaur sprinted alone on the track at Trusts Arena in Auckland, to audible applause and cheers from the crowd. There were two other runners in her heat, according to the New Zealand Herald, women ages 85 and 88. But they both finished in under 30 seconds, ceding the stage to Kaur for most of her race.

Kaur later danced in celebration with the medal around her neck.

The World Masters Games are a quadrennial multi-sport event, like the Olympics, but with different classifications per age group.

In track and field, there are age groups from 30-35 years all the way up to 100-and-over in Auckland. Kaur was the oldest track and field athlete competing by 11 years and thus won her age group with no competition.

Kaur is also entered in the 200m, javelin and shot put later this week.

She’s not the first centenarian to star in an Olympic sport.

Japan’s Hidekichi Miyazaki made headlines two years ago at age 105 for running 100m in 42 seconds.

In cycling, a 105-year-old Frenchman covered 14 miles in one hour in January.

A 100-year-old Japanese woman swam 1500m in 1 hour, 15 minutes, in 2015.

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Watch Simone Biles samba to Destiny’s Child on ‘Dancing with the Stars’

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Simone Biles easily advanced to the final seven on “Dancing with the Stars,” while Nancy Kerrigan was the last contestant to survive elimination Monday night.

Biles, a four-time Rio Olympic gymnastics gold medalist, danced a samba to Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” with partner Sasha Farber.

They received 35 points out of a possible 40 — with no 10s after Biles received her first 10s the previous week. It was the fourth-best score of eight couples Monday.

Judges felt their timing was off.

Kerrigan, a two-time Olympic figure skating medalist, performed with Artem Chigvintsev to En Vogue’s “Free Your Mind.”

They scored 33 points, lowest of the four women’s contestants remaining, with judges telling Kerrigan she looked unstable and tense at times. Kerrigan has been dealing with back pain and arm weakness.

“We had a lunch break, and we had sushi, and she couldn’t lift the soy sauce,” Chigvintsev said on ABC News.

The elimination came down to Kerrigan and “Glee” actress Heather Morris. Morris was cut, via a combination judges scores and fan votes, despite recording the first perfect score of the season Monday night.

The announcement drew boos from the studio crowd.

Kerrigan and Biles are looking to become the sixth Olympian to win the Mirrorball Trophy in the series’ 24 seasons, joining Kristi YamaguchiApolo OhnoShawn JohnsonMeryl Davis and Laurie Hernandez.

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