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IOC president open to unified Korean Olympic team in PyeongChang

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — IOC President Thomas Bach said Friday that he is open to the possibility of a unified Korean team at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

Speaking in Muju, 240 kilometers (150 miles) south of Seoul, on the final day of the 2017 World Taekwondo Championships, Bach told a media conference that he would discuss the issue with South Korea President Moon Jae-in.

At the opening ceremony of the championships, Moon, currently in the United States to visit U.S. President Donald Trump, raised the possibility of the two countries participating together.

“We have noted with great appreciation the message of President Moon to see the Olympic Games as a possibility for dialogue and reconciliation,” said Bach, adding that Moon’s comments reflected the Olympic spirit.
“What this could mean for the 2018 Winter Games and what could be done in respect, we’ll discuss this Monday with President Moon once he’s back from his state visit to the U.S.”

Bach, a former Olympic fencer, confirmed that regardless of any joint team, the IOC was ready to assist North Korea’s involvement at Pyeongchang.

“The position of the IOC is very clear,” he said. “We have already invited the DPRK (North Korea) to participate in the Winter Games in 2018. We are supporting athletes in order to assist them to qualify for the Olympic Games.”

Earlier this week, however, North Korea’s sole member of the IOC, Chang Ung, was cautious when talking to South Korean media.

“It’s only hypothetical, and many different departments at the IOC are involved,” said Chang. “We should stop this discussion. We should only talk about what’s practically possible. I think it’s going to be very difficult.”

While the two Koreas, technically still at war since an armistice brought hostilities to an end in 1953, have marched together at the opening ceremonies at various Olympic tournaments in the past, they have never sent a unified team to compete on that stage.

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MORE: North Koreans can cross DMZ for Olympics

Kerri Walsh Jennings pleased by result after longest break in 5 years

Kerri Walsh Jennings
FIVB World Tour
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Kerri Walsh Jennings returned from her longest competition break since 2013 and, with partner Nicole Branagh, nearly beat the world’s top-ranked team.

Walsh Jennings and Branagh ultimately were eliminated in the round of 16 at the Xiamen Open in China.

“We WILL do better,” was posted on Walsh Jennings’ social media. “We actually had a great showing and learned and battled and improved – sometimes the stats don’t show everything.”

Walsh Jennings and Branagh, a pair of 39-year-old moms, played together for the first time since July 22, when Walsh Jennings’ five-times surgically repaired right shoulder popped out mid-match.

Walsh Jennings, eyeing her sixth and final Olympics in 2020, underwent a sixth shoulder surgery and an ankle surgery and did not return to training on the beach until March (her longest break between hitting a ball on sand since switching from indoor following the 2000 Olympics).

The duo won their opening Xiamen match in three sets last week, then lost a three-setter to the world’s No. 1 team in group play. Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes prevailed 21-15, 22-24, 18-16 en route to the tournament title.

After Walsh Jennings and Branagh swept American qualifiers Kelley Larsen and Emily Stockman in the first elimination round, they squandered a one-set lead in the round of 16. Australians Mariafe Artacho and Taliqua Clancy eliminated them 19-21, 21-16, 20-18.

Walsh Jennings said before flying to Xiamen that she and Branagh would next play on the FIVB World Tour at the Itapema Open in Brazil in mid-May. In four FIVB World Tour events since partnering last year, they were eliminated in qualifying once, bounced in the round of 16 twice and forfeited a bronze-medal match due to that shoulder dislocation.

Early season partner changes defined the U.S. women’s landscape. In Xiamen, one of those new teams, Kelly Claes and Brittany Hochevar, reached the final, losing to the Canadians.

It marked the first final four appearance on the senior FIVB World Tour for the 22-year-old Claes, an NCAA champion at USC with former partner Sara Hughes, and for the 36-year-old Hochevar, the older sister of former Kansas City Royals pitcher Luke Hochevar.

MORE: Walsh Jennings documents comeback from surgeries

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Watch Dateline special on McKayla Maroney, Larry Nassar; full episode

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McKayla MaroneyAly Raisman and Martha and Bela Karolyi spoke about their experiences with Larry Nassar in “Silent No More,” an NBC News’ DATELINE special that aired Sunday night.

It marked Maroney’s first interview since she went public as one of the hundreds of survivors who said they were sexually abused by Nassar, a team doctor for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University for two decades.

The Karolyis, both former U.S. women’s national team coordinators, spoke on camera for the first time regarding Nassar, too. Olympians said they were abused at the Karolyis’ ranch in Texas at national team training camps.

Maroney said that at 2011 Worlds in Tokyo she told John Geddert, the personal coach of teammate Jordyn Wieber and head coach for the U.S. team at the event, that Nassar abused her.

NBC News reported that three other people in the car at the time remembered Maroney’s account from seven years ago. Geddert did not respond to requests for comment.

Geddert was suspended by USA Gymnastics in January and is facing a criminal investigation after Nassar, who molested girls at Geddert’s gym in Michigan, was sentenced to 40 to 125 years in prison on Jan. 24. Geddert said he had “zero knowledge” of Nassar’s crimes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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MORE: Karolyis deny knowledge of Nassar crimes | Maroney’s first speech on Nassar