South Korea

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South Korea scares Canada in pre-Olympic hockey tournament

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The unheralded South Korean men’s hockey team put a scare into reigning Olympic champion Canada, losing 4-2 at a pre-Olympic tournament in Russia on Wednesday.

The South Koreans, who only made the Pyeongchang Olympic tournament because they are hosts, led 2-1 after the first period. Canada scored two goals in the second and an empty-netter in the final minute.

Canada outshot South Korea 57-10, according to Hockey Canada.

The Canadian roster Wednesday, while of course lacking NHL players, included many who should be on the nation’s Olympic team of 25.

South Korea is coached by Jim Paek, the first Korean-born NHL player who won Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 and 1992.

South Korea is by far the lowest-ranked nation in the 12-team Olympic men’s hockey field at No. 21. The host nation plays Canada in a preliminary round game Feb. 18 in Pyeongchang.

“I hope Canada thinks [it can win handily] so we can slide in there and beat them,” Paek said in July, according to Yonhap News Agency, adding that his expectation is a gold medal. “If we lose by 100 goals or whatever before the Olympics, that’s OK. You have to fail in order to get better.”

Canada is ranked No. 1 in the world but will be one of the teams hardest hit by the NHL’s decision not to participate in the Olympics for the first time since 1994.

Canada will try to become the first team to win three straight Olympic men’s hockey titles since the Soviet Union/Unified Team in 1984, 1988 and 1992.

South Korea’s national team includes multiple naturalized Canadians, like No. 1 goalie Matt Dalton. Dalton spent several days with the Boston Bruins during the 2009-10 season but never saw game action.

Three years ago, Paek replaced a coach who guided South Korea at a low-tier 2014 World Championship tournament to an 0-5 record with a minus-20 goal differential.

This year, the South Koreans won four of five games in the same tournament with a mix of native Koreans and naturalized Canadians. They received promotion to the top-level world championship for the first time next year.

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Yuna Kim: ‘It will be difficult’ to skate in Olympic exhibition gala

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UNITED NATIONS — Figure skating gold medalist Yuna Kim‘s earliest powerful memory of the Olympics was actually of the Summer Games.

“I first experienced the spirit of the Olympic Games and the power of sport when I was a 10-year-old watching the South and North Korean delegations walking into [Sydney 2000] Olympic Stadium together,” for the Opening Ceremony, she said Monday.

Kim, perhaps the most famous person in South Korea, spoke in English to the United Nations General Assembly in New York as a goodwill ambassador for the first Winter Games in South Korea.

The U.N. General Assembly adopted the traditional Olympic Truce, which calls on all nations to cease hostilities during the time surrounding the Olympics and Paralympics in February and March.

Though Kim retired after following her 2010 Olympic gold with silver in 2014, she could be very visible during the PyeongChang Games.

She is considered the favorite to light the cauldron at the Opening Ceremony on Feb. 9. That is if South Korean organizers go the traditional route of choosing an Olympic hero.

In 1988, at the only Summer Olympics in South Korea in Seoul, three South Koreans lit the cauldron simultaneously — a teacher, a high school student and a marathoner at those Games.

“No one knows who will be the last torch bearer and who will be lighting the cauldron,” Kim said later Monday in a press conference, speaking in Korean, “but if given the opportunity, of course it would be an honor.”

Kim could also make a well-publicized appearance on the final day of the Games at the figure skating exhibition gala.

Many ticket holders may hope that she does, given it is the second-highest-priced event of the Games behind the men’s hockey final.

She almost dismissed the notion Monday because, unlike many high-profile skaters in retirement, she has not been performing in ice shows that would keep her skating skills sharp.

“I have not been skating professionally, so as an athlete, it might be a little bit difficult to participate at the exhibition gala,” she said.

Two active skaters who could receive plenty of attention in PyeongChang are the North Korean pair of Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik.

They are the only North Korean athletes in any sport to qualify Olympic entry spots for their nation. But it’s unknown if those spots will be filled.

North Korea has not submitted an application to participate in the Games, said Do Jong-hwan, South Korea’s minister of culture, sport and tourism.

“We are very much waiting for them to come, and we are very much hopeful that they will participate at the Games,” he said.

A PyeongChang Olympic spokesperson said that 82 nations have delivered applications so far. That’s close to the number of nations expected to compete at the Winter Games.

In 2014, a Winter Olympics record 88 nations and one independent Olympic participant took part.

The last nations to qualify Olympic figure skating spots in September needed to confirm their plans to the International Skating Union to use those spots by Oct. 30.

The ISU has not responded to a Tuesday morning email asking if North Korea confirmed that it plans to use its pairs spot by the deadline.

“I’m also very curious and waiting with a little bit of uncertainty and hopeful that North Korean athletes will participate [in PyeongChang],” Kim said. “When I was an athlete, there was no opportunity to meet North Korean athletes.”

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Olympic flame goes under water (video, photos)

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The Olympic flame went under water on the third day of the 100-day PyeongChang torch relay across South Korea.

The flame visited Jeju, the largest of more than 3,000 islands off the southern coast of South Korea.

The Haenyeo, female divers native to Jeju, carried the flame from water onto land. The robot device in the above video is called “Crabster.”

Arirang News has an English report on the torch relay here.

It will go from Jeju to the southeastern port of Busan, the second-largest city in South Korea, and spend the rest of the trek on mainland South Korea.

It will visit Seoul closer to the end of the relay. It will culminate in PyeongChang on Feb. 9, with the lighting of the Olympic cauldron at the Opening Ceremony.

The relay will include 7,500 torch bearers, visiting 17 cities and provinces.

The Olympic flame also went under water in 2000 in the Great Barrier Reef en route to Sydney and in 2013 in Lake Baikal en route to Sochi.

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Images via PyeongChang 2018:

Olympic flame under water

Olympic flame under water