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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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Exhibition gala closes out figure skating program in PyeongChang

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Without the pressure of racking up points to land on the medal podium, the figure skating exhibition gala is a chance for the athletes to express themselves. There aren’t rules about jumping sequences, and instead, skaters can use props and silly concepts, if they want.

Figure skaters who win medals at the Olympics are typically among the invite list, plus up-and-coming skaters from the host country and other fan favorites.

Here are some of the best performances of the evening:

Ice dance bronze medalists Maia and Alex Shibutani reprised last season’s “That’s Life” short dance by Frank Sinatra featuring Jay-Z for this year’s exhibition.

Ladies’ gold medalist Alina Zagitova performed her “Priestess of Fire” exhibition, which included a fake candle prop glowing on the ice.

Watch performances from the figure skating gala by clicking here 

Double gold: Germany’s Friedrich wins 4-man bobsled

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Two-man? Check. Four-man? Double check. Francesco Friedrich piloted his German sled to gold in the four-man bobsled, becoming the sixth pilot to win gold in both the two- and four-man bobsled in the same Olympics on the final day of competition in PyeongChang.

After tying with Canada’s Justin Kripps in two-man, Friedrich made no doubt in four-man, sliding to a dominant win. The German sled was clear of second by 0.53 seconds. And in second? Another tie on the bobsled course — just like the tie for gold in two-man. South Korea and Germany shared the silver medal.

NBCOlympics.com: Remembering team USA bobsled star Steve Holcomb

South Korea’s medal was historic. Won Yun-Jong delivered for the home nation, bringing the country its first medal in the bobsled. Yun Sung-Bin won the country’s first medal in a sliding event by taking gold in skeleton earlier in the games. Germany’s Nico Walther piloted the sled that tied.

Codie Bascue piloted the top American sled to a ninth-place finish. Nick Cunningham and Justin Olsen improved in Runs 3 and 4 to finish 19th and 20th, respectively.

Results: 

Gold: Germany (Friedrich sled)
Silver: South Korea (Won sled)
Silver: Germany (Walther sled)

Read the full recap and watch bobsled highlights by clicking here