North Korea misses Olympic figure skating deadline, but door still open

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At the moment, North Korea has no athletes qualified for the PyeongChang Olympics. But that could change.

North Korea’s Olympic Committee missed an Oct. 30 deadline to confirm it would send its qualified pairs figure skating team to the Winter Games.

The International Skating Union confirmed Tuesday that it has received no communication from North Korea, which qualified a pairs spot in September.

By ISU rules, the pairs spot originally earned by North Korea will be offered in two weeks to the top nation not already qualified, which is currently Japan. Japan would have until Dec. 21 to tell the ISU that it plans to use the spot.

The ISU said that North Korea could still be added to the Olympic pairs field, but the move would have to come from the International Olympic Committee.

An IOC spokesperson did not address that possibility later Tuesday, repeating that North Korea’s Olympic Committee has been invited to the Olympics, and the IOC has offered its support.

The IOC, as well as PyeongChang organizers and South Korean officials, have repeatedly said they want North Korea to participate in the Olympics.

“The position of the IOC is very clear,” IOC president Thomas Bach said in June, according to The Associated Press. “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.”

There have also been reports that North Korean athletes could receive Olympic spots without qualifying.

A North Korean sports ministry official said North Korean athletes will be at the Olympics, the governor of PyeongChang’s province reportedly said in April.

That statement came five months before pairs figure skaters Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik became the first North Korean athletes to qualify Olympic spots for the country.

“It is up to the North Korean Olympic Committee to decide whether they will participate or not,” the pair’s coach, Kim Hyon Son, said after they qualified, according to The New York Times.

Ryom, 18, and Kim, 25, could become the first North Koreans to compete at an Olympics hosted by South Korea. North Korea boycotted the 1988 Seoul Games.

It wasn’t certain that North Korea would qualify any athletes for PyeongChang.

Despite winning at least four medals at every Summer Games since the boycott, North Korea didn’t have any athletes at the Sochi Olympics and just two at Vancouver 2010.

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Alina Zagitova eyes more gold at worlds; women’s preview

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Alina Zagitova hasn’t lost internationally in 18 months, and that doesn’t figure to change this week at the world championships in Milan.

The 15-year-old Russian is favored to become the youngest world gold medalist since Tara Lipinski (duplicating her feat from the Olympics) and make it five straight Olympic or world titles for Russian women, the longest streak for one country since American Carol Heiss won six straight Olympic/world titles from 1956 through 1960.

Zagitova would also become the first Olympic women’s champion to win worlds the following month since Kristi Yamaguchi in 1992. That’s largely because Olympic champions usually skip worlds in Olympic years. Since Yamaguchi, the only one to compete was Yuna Kim, who grabbed silver in 2010.

Zagitova may be young, but she may not have the longevity of Kim to make it to a second Olympics. Russia turns over a new class of elite women’s skaters every year.

Two weeks ago, 13-year-old Alexandra Trusova won the world junior title as the first woman to land two different quadruple jumps in one program. Trusova isn’t old enough to compete at the senior worlds until 2020.

Zagitova’s current rival and training partner, Olympic silver medalist and 2016 and 2017 World champion Yevgenia Medvedeva, withdrew from worlds due to injury.

WORLDS: TV Schedule | Pairs Preview | Nagasu’s Outlook

Which leaves the last two Olympic bronze medalists, Kaetlyn Osmond of Canada and Carolina Kostner of Italy, plus PyeongChang fourth-place finisher Satoko Miyahara of Japan as the top challengers this week.

None finished within seven points of Zagitova at any competition this season, the Russian’s first on the senior international level.

Zagitova set herself apart at the Olympics by putting all of her jumps in the second half of her programs for 10 percent bonuses and landing them all with positive grades of execution.

The U.S. contingent includes national champion Bradie Tennell, two-time Olympian Mirai Nagasu and Mariah Bell (replacement for 2017 U.S. champion Karen Chen).

It is the end of a challenging season for U.S. women. In the autumn, none qualified for the Grand Prix Final for a second straight year (after at least one had done so each of the previous seven seasons).

In PyeongChang, no U.S. woman finished in the top six for the first time in Winter Games history. Tennell, who emerged this season after placing ninth at 2017 Nationals, was the top U.S. Olympic finisher in ninth.

Tennell goes into worlds as the top seeded American — seventh — by best international scores this season.

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Olympic golf qualifying, format largely unchanged for 2020

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The Tokyo 2020 Olympic golf tournaments qualifying and format will remain largely the same as they were for the sport’s return to the Games in 2016, according to Golf Channel, citing a memo sent to PGA Tour players.

The format will again be four rounds of stroke play with 60 men and 60 women taken from the world rankings, according to the report.

The qualifying window to determine the rankings will be July 1, 2018 to June 22, 2020 for men and July 8, 2018 to June 29, 2020 for women. That’s a slight change, as for 2016 the dates were the same for men and women.

The 2016 process saw a maximum of two men and two women per country, or up to four if they were ranked in the top 15.

Then-PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said one month after the Rio Games that he hoped the Olympic golf format would be changed to have more medals awarded.

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