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IOC to discuss North Korea threat ahead of PyeongChang Olympics

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LONDON (AP) — Escalating tensions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program have caused security challenges posed to the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics to be assessed at an upcoming IOC meeting.

The International Olympic Committee session comes five months before the Winter Games are staged 50 miles across the border from North Korea.

Although regional concerns have been building for months amid new missile tests by the North, the pace has intensified since new sanctions were passed against Kim Jong Un’s regime by the U.N. Security Council last week. It led to heated rhetoric between the United States and North Korea, with threats of attacks.

“We are monitoring the situation on the Korean peninsula and the region very closely,” the IOC said on Friday from Lausanne, Switzerland. “The IOC is keeping itself informed about the developments. We continue working with the organizing committee on the preparations of these games which continue to be on track.”

France Olympic Committee president Denis Masseglia told The Associated Press the North Korea situation will be discussed at the IOC Session in Lima, Peru, in September.

“There is no reason to be too worried at the moment,” Masseglia said. “We are five or six months away from the Olympics. We are monitoring the situation carefully. Of course if the tension escalates, we’ll need to adapt. But PyeongChang is ready to host the games.”

PyeongChang is presenting the IOC with the third successive problematic build-up to an Olympics after Sochi in 2014 and Rio de Janeiro in 2016 were beset by human rights, environmental, and political crises.

“Each host city presents a unique challenge from a security perspective,” United States Olympic Committee spokesman Patrick Sandusky said, “and as is always the case, we are working with the organizers, the U.S. State Department and the relevant law enforcement agencies to ensure that our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe.”

Germany’s Olympic body said it will follow government travel advice which currently does not warn against travel to South Korea.

“We are observing the situation in the interests of both our athletes and fans,” the German Olympic Sports Confederation said. “Naturally we hope that it doesn’t worsen and that it calms down. In such cases, before we go to any such tournaments or competitions we always consult with the Federal Foreign Office for guidance.”

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South Korean star switches events in last try to make Olympic team

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Lee Jung-Su, the last South Korean man to win short track gold, has reportedly switched to long-track speed skating after failing to make the PyeongChang Olympic short track team.

Lee, 27, won the 1000m and 1500m at the 2010 Vancouver Games in South Korea’s most successful Winter Olympic sport.

He made this same switch four years ago after missing the 2014 Olympic team in short track but did not make the Sochi long-track team, either, according to Yonhap News Agency.

After his countrymen went medal-less in Sochi, Lee switched back to short track and was the top South Korean skater the last World Cup season, ranking sixth in the world.

But Lee made zero A finals at the world championships and reportedly placed eighth at the Olympic Trials in April, missing the five-man Olympic team.

Lee is focusing on the new Olympic event of mass start, which is similar to short track pack skating but on the long-track oval, according to Yonhap.

The mass start is nearly 6000m and takes nearly eight minutes, more than three times that of the longest individual Olympic short track event.

South Korea can put no more than two men into the Olympic mass start. A favorite is Lee Seung-Hoon, the 2010 Olympic 10,000m champion who won the 2016 World title in mass start.

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American-born figure skater closer to representing S. Korea in PyeongChang

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Alexander Gamelin, an ice dancer born in Boston, is now eligible to represent South Korea at the PyeongChang Winter Games, according to South Korean reports.

Gamelin completed a citizenship naturalization process and acquired a South Korean passport, according to Yonhap News Agency on Monday.

Gamelin, 24, has skated with Yura Min for the last two years after coupling with twin sister Danielle Gamelin for the prior 13 years until her retirement. Min was born in Torrance, Calif., to South Korean parents and holds dual citizenship.

South Korea has not yet qualified an ice dance spot for PyeongChang. One South Korean couple has competed in ice dance in Olympic history — a last-place finish at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games.

Min and Gamelin placed 20th out of 32 couples at the world championships in the spring as the lone South Korean couple (they were allowed to compete for South Korea outside of the Olympics because Min has citizenship). The cutoff for Olympic qualification was 18th place.

The last qualification event is in Germany in late September. The top five couples from countries not otherwise qualified get the last Olympic spots.

Min and Gamelin would be favorites to finish in the top five in Germany, given they ranked No. 3 in the world last year among couples from countries not yet qualified for PyeongChang. The next-best South Korean couple had a score nearly 40 points fewer than Min and Gamelin.

Even if Min and Gamelin don’t qualify a South Korean ice dance spot, they could still make the Olympics in the team event for the host nation, should South Korea qualify as one of the top 10 nations.

Gamelin is one of a host of athletes from around the world expected to compete for South Korea in PyeongChang as a naturalized citizen. There are also American and Canadian hockey players, Russian biathletes and a German luger, athletes in sports where South Korea does not excel.

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