AP

North Korean athletes arrive in PyeongChang

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GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — Ten North Korean skaters and skiers arrived in rival South Korea on Thursday for the PyeongChang Olympics.

The North Koreans are the second and final batch of 22 athletes from their country who received invitations from the International Olympic Committee.

A dozen North Korean female hockey players came last week to form a joint team with South Korean athletes, the first unified Korean team in the Olympics. North Korea originally had no athletes qualified for the Games.

A 32-member North Korean delegation including the 10 athletes, their coaches and Vice Sports Minister Won Kil U arrived in South Korea by air.

They flew on a South Korean flight that also brought back South Korean non-Olympic skiers who had visited a North Korean ski resort this week.

It is extremely unusual for North Koreans to travel aboard a South Korean plane, with most past visits, including the hockey players’ arrival, made across the heavily fortified land border.

Greeted by a barrage of camera flashes, the North Koreans — men dressed in navy blue coats and women in red coats, both wearing fur hats — didn’t speak much at the South Korean airport and later at the athletes’ village in the eastern city of Gangneung.

But some smiled and waved their hands to journalists at the athletes’ village. One said, “Nice to meet you!”

The 10 athletes are to compete in Alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, figure skating and short track speed skating.

The Koreas have been planning several conciliatory gestures during the Games, including having their athletes parade together with a single “unification flag” depicting their peninsula during the Opening Ceremony. As they did in 2000, 2004 and 2006.

Another rare sight on Thursday was North Korean flags that began flying in Olympic villages and stadiums in PyeongChang and Gangneung, something that normally wouldn’t be tolerated in a country with a strict anti-North Korea security law still in effect.

Next week, North Korea is to send a 230-member cheering group, a 140-strong art troupe, taekwondo demonstrators and journalists as part of its Olympic delegation.

The last time North Korea sent a big delegation to South Korea was for the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, just west of Seoul.

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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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