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North Korean athletes can cross DMZ for PyeongChang Olympics

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North Korean athletes are welcome to travel through the demilitarized zone for the Winter Olympics in February, PyeongChang 2018 president Hee-Beom Lee reportedly said Thursday.

“South Korea will welcome North Korea, and when they decide to come the South Korean government will allow them to come by road, and when they have supporting teams the Korean government will allow them to come by ship,” Lee said in London, according to Reuters. “All nations are very welcome, including North Korea and Russia. We want it to be the peace Games.”

When North Korean athletes compete in South Korea, they typically fly through Beijing, according to Yonhap News.

North and South Korea have been divided by the DMZ buffer since the Korean War ended in 1953. It stretches 250 miles long and is 2 1/2 miles wide, with armed troops on both sides.

However, North Korea is not assured of qualifying any athletes for the Winter Games. It had two athletes at Vancouver 2010 and none at Sochi 2014.

It boycotted the previous Olympics in South Korea in Seoul in 1988, but North and South Korean officials have been quoted saying North Korea plans to participate in PyeongChang.

North Korea’s best chance at qualifying may come in pairs figure skating, if its promising team is entered in the final Olympic qualifier in Germany in September.

“With or without qualification we are still talking with the International Olympic Committee and the relevant international federations for North Korea to participate,” Lee said Thursday, according to the BBC.

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Teddy Riner, dominant judoka, to skip 2018, 2019 Worlds

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French judoka Teddy Riner, arguably the world’s most dominant athlete, will reportedly skip the next two world championships before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

French coach Franck Chambily said Riner will compete a light international schedule the next two years ahead of what would be his fourth Olympics, according to Agence France-Presse.

Riner, a 29-year-old, 6-foot-8-inch native of Guadeloupe, is undefeated since 2010 with a reported 144-match winning streak. That includes Olympic titles in 2012 and 2016 and world titles in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017.

Before the streak, Riner also earned world titles in 2007, 2009 and 2010, plus an Olympic bronze at age 19 in 2008.

He could compete through the 2024 Paris Games.

“When I am invincible, I will stop,” Riner said in 2013, according to The Associated Press.

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Maggie Nichols wins NCAA all-around title with perfect 10

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Even after a perfect 10 in the last rotation, Maggie Nichols didn’t know that she had won the NCAA all-around title. Her coach at Oklahoma, K.J. Kindler, had to tell her.

The reaction?

“Excitement,” Nichols said Friday night on ESPNU. “I just wanted to go out there and feel out the equipment, staying calm and doing my routines that I have been doing in training.”

Nichols, a 2015 World team champion who retired from elite gymnastics after missing the 2016 Olympic team (set back by a torn meniscus that year), became the first Sooner to win the NCAA all-around in 30 years.

The sophomore tallied 39.8125 points and topped Olympic alternate MyKayla Skinner of Utah by .0875 for the title in St. Louis. It came one year after Nichols was 29th in the all-around with a balance beam fall.

Oklahoma and Utah will be joined in Saturday night’s Super Six team finals by UCLA, LSU, Florida and Nebraska. The Sooners eye their third straight national title.

Nichols capped her night with one of two perfect scores between the two semifinal sessions, matching 2012 Olympic alternate Elizabeth Price‘s 10 on uneven bars. It gave Nichols a second career gym slam, a perfect score on every apparatus for the season.

On Jan. 9, Nichols came forward as “Athlete A,” who first reported to USA Gymnastics that she was sexually abused by Larry Nassar in summer 2015.

“She has had a really unique year probably like no one else, and her strength showed through,” Kindler said Friday, according to the University of Oklahoma. “It was tough, and to come out on this side this year is really special.”

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