AP

North, South Korea hockey players meet, shout ‘We are one!’

3 Comments

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Female hockey players from the rival Koreas were paired up with each other Thursday to form their first-ever Olympic squad as their countries press ahead with rare reconciliation steps following a period of nuclear tensions.

A dozen North Korean hockey players wearing white-and-red winter parkas crossed the heavily fortified border into South Korea earlier Thursday, as about 30-40 conservative activists shouted anti-Pyongyang slogans at a nearby border area.

The North Koreans traveled on to a national athletes’ village in southern South Korea, where they were welcomed by their South Korean teammates and Canadian coach Sarah Murray, who presented them flower bouquets in an outdoor welcoming ceremony.

“I sincerely welcome your arrival,” Lee Jae-kun, head of the athletes’ village, told the North Koreans after they got off a bus.

Pak Chol Ho, a North Korean coach who arrived with the 12 athletes and two support staff, told reporters that he’s happy to team up with South Koreans.

“I’m very pleased with the fact that North and South are united as one to participate in [the Olympics]. I expect we’ll see good results if we unite our efforts … though we don’t have much time,” he said.

The Korean players later shouted “We are one!” and took a group photo. North and South Korean players plan to practice separately for several days as Murray needs time to learn about the North Koreans.

The players were sharing the same locker room, and the lockers of the North Korean players were deliberately placed between those of their South Korean teammates so that they could become close quickly, according to Yonhap News Agency.

The Koreas fielded a single team to major sports events only twice, both in 1991. One event was the world table tennis championships and the other soccer’s World Youth Championship.

But this is the first time they’ve assembled a single team for the Olympics.

The Koreas explored how to cooperate in the Olympics after the North’s leader Kim Jong Un abruptly said in his New Year’s address that he was willing to send an Olympic delegation.

As part of the rapprochement deals, the Koreas also agreed for their athletes to march together under a single flag during the Feb. 9 Opening Ceremony.

The International Olympic Committee allowed 22 North Korean athletes, including the 12 hockey players, to compete in PyeongChang in exceptional entries given to the North, which qualified zero athletes from the Games.

The 10 others will compete in figure skating, short track speed skating, Alpine skiing and cross-country skiing. They will come to South Korea on Feb. 1.

The joint hockey team deal triggered a backlash in South Korea, with a survey showing about 70 percent of respondents opposing the idea because it would deprive South Korean players of playing time.

The IOC-brokered agreement requires at least three North Korean players to suit up for each game, meaning that three from South Korea’s original roster cannot play in those games.

Murray has said that the North Koreans’ hard-hitting style would make them suited to be her fourth line, a group of players who are typically asked to provide strong physical play in short bursts while giving their teammates with greater scoring responsibilities a chance to rest.

Murray, who examined the North Koreans first-hand during an event in Gangneung last year, has identified five players as memorable, but among them, only forwards Jong Su Hyon and Kim Hyang Mi made the trip for the Olympics.

The unified Korean team will open their group action against Switzerland on Feb. 10.

It will then face Sweden on Feb. 12 and Japan on Feb. 14.

What draws attention is its Japan match, as many in both Koreas still harbor bitter resentment against Japan’s 35-year colonial rule that ended in 1945, three years before two different governments were formally established on the Korean Peninsula.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Korea Olympic hockey coach: No pressure to play North Koreans

Eliud Kipchoge wins London Marathon; no world record (video)

Leave a comment

Eliud Kipchoge won his eighth straight marathon (ninth if you count Nike’s sub-two attempt), but missed the world record at a steamy London Marathon by more than one minute on Sunday.

The Kenyan Olympic champion clocked 2:04:17, pulling away from Ethiopian Tola Kitata by 32 seconds. Mo Farah, the four-time Olympic track champ in his second marathon, finished third in 2:06:21.

Kipchoge and Kitata fell off Dennis Kimetto‘s world-record pace around the 20th mile. Kimetto ran 2:02:57 at the 2014 Berlin Marathon.

Full results are here.

The temperature eclipsed 70 degrees Farenheit during the race, making it one of the hottest London Marathons ever. Perhaps considering that, Kipchoge said he ran “a beautiful race” for his third London title in four years.

“The conditions, I can’t complain, because all of us were running in the same arena,” he told media in London. “No regrets at all.”

Farah was satisfied, too, achieving his primary goal of breaking the 33-year-old British record held by Steve Jones.

“If you looked at the field before the start of that race, you would never have put me third place,” said Farah, who ran nearly two minutes faster than his marathon debut in London in 2014. “You would put ahead of me so many other guys.”

No world record in the women’s race, either. Kenyan Vivian Cheruiyot won in 2:18:31, passing pre-race favorite Mary Keitany in the 23rd mile. Cheruiyot won by 1 minute, 42 seconds over countrywoman Brigid Kosgei. Keitany slowed to fifth in 2:24:27.

Cheruiyot, a 34-year-old mom, made her marathon debut in London last year, finishing fourth. Before that, Cheruiyot earned four Olympic medals on the track, plus four world titles combined in the 5000m and 10,000m.

Paula Radcliffe‘s world record with male pacers — 2:15:25 from 2003 — was a target for Keitany. Last year, Keitany broke Radcliffe’s world record without male pacers by 41 seconds, winning her third London title in 2:17:01.

The other leading contender Sunday, Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba, stopped in the 20th mile.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Shalane Flanagan looks to future after last Boston Marathon

2018 London Marathon results

Leave a comment

Top finishers from the 38th London Marathon (full searchable results here) …

Men’s Elite
1. Eliud Kipchoge (KEN) 2:04:17
2. Tola Kitata (ETH) 2:04:49
3. Mo Farah (GBR) 2:06:21
4. Abel Kirui (KEN) 2:07:07
5. Bedan Karoki (KEN) 2:08:34
6. Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) 2:08:53
7. Lawrence Cherono (KEN) 2:09:25
8. Daniel Wanjiru (KEN) 2:10:35
9. Amanuel Mesel (ERI) 2:11:52
10. Yohanes Gebregergish (ER) 2:12:09
17. Guye Adola (ETH) 2:32:35

Women’s Elite
1. Vivian Cheruiyot (KEN) 2:18:31
2. Brigid Kosgei (KEN) 2:20:13
3. Tadelech Bekele (ETH) 2:21:40
4. Gladys Cherono (KEN) 2:24:10
5. Mary Keitany (KEN) 2:24:27
6. Rose Chelimo (BRN) 2:26:03
7. Mare Dibaba (ETH) 2:27:45
8. Lily Partridge (GBR) 2:29:24
9. Tracy Barlow (GBR) 2:32:09
10. Stephanie Bruce (USA) 2:32:28
DNF. Tirunesh Dibaba (ETH)

Men’s Wheelchair
1. David Weir (GBR) 1:31:15
2. Marcel Hug (SUI) 1:31:15
3. Daniel Romanchuk (USA) 1:31:16
4. Josh George (USA) 1:31:24
5. Kurt Fearnley (AUS) 1:31:24

Women’s Wheelchair
1. Madison de Rozario (AUS) 1:42:58
2. Tatyana McFadden (USA) 1:42:58
3. Susannah Scaroni (USA) 1:43:00
4. Manuela Schar (SUI) 1:43:01
5. Amanda McGrory (USA) 1:43:04

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Shalane Flanagan looks to future after last Boston Marathon