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North Korea confirms plan to participate at PyeongChang Olympics

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A North Korean sports ministry official said North Korean athletes will be at the PyeongChang Olympics in February, the governor of PyeongChang’s province said Sunday, according to Yonhap News Agency.

“When I asked him if North Korea will send athletes to PyeongChang, he said they will be here,” Gangwon Province Gov. Choi Moon-soon said, according to the report.

Sports officials from both North and South Korea have encouraged North Korean participation at the 2018 Olympics, notably in the last few months as the one-year-out date for the Winter Games passed.

North Korea boycotted the only other Olympics held in South Korea, the Summer Games in Seoul in 1988.

Since, North Korean athletes have participated in major sporting events in South Korea, including the 2002 and 2014 Asian Games.

This week, North and South Korea women’s hockey teams are set to play in a lower-division world championship tournament in South Korea, which doubles as the Olympic hockey test event. That game is Thursday.

The following day, North and South Korea women’s soccer teams are scheduled for a match in Pyongyang.

North Korea’s women’s hockey team has been in South Korea for the world championship tournament for days and has been greeted warmly by South Koreans, according to Yonhap.

A group of spectators at North Korea’s first game on Sunday, a 2-1 loss to Australia, waved the Korean Unification Flag with the image of the entire Korean Peninsula.

From Yonhap:

Nearly 300 members of a civic group, the South Korean Committee for the Joint Implementation of the June 15 Summit Declaration, took up a section across from the North Korean bench at the arena, banging thundersticks and chanting messages like, “We Are One!” and “Go Korea!”

It’s not a certainty that North Korea will qualify any athletes for the PyeongChang Winter Games. Despite winning at least four medals at every Summer Games since boycotting Seoul 1988, it didn’t have any athletes at the Sochi Olympics and just two at Vancouver 2010.

North Korea has zero top-performing international winter sports athletes and few who even appear at major competitions.

A North Korean pairs figure skating team finished 15th at the world championship last week. They’re now favorites to secure one of four remaining Olympic berths at a last-chance qualifying event in Germany in September.

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MORE: PyeongChang 2018 daily schedule highlights

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Eliud Kipchoge sets next marathon

Eliud Kipchoge
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Eliud Kipchoge will race the London Marathon on April 26 before he is expected to defend his Olympic title in Japan on Aug. 9, which would mark the shortest break between marathons of his career.

Kipchoge, who in his last 26.2-mile effort became the first person to break two hours at the distance, won all four of his London Marathon starts, including breaking the course record in 2016 and 2019.

His time this past April 28 — 2:02:37 — is the third-fastest time in history. Kipchoge has the world record of 2:01:39 set at the 2018 Berlin Marathon. His sub-two-hour marathon in Vienna on Oct. 12 was not in a record-eligible race.

Kipchoge’s previous shortest break between marathons came in 2016, when he also ran London and the Olympics. The Olympics will be two weeks earlier in 2020 than in 2016.

Kipchoge, 35, has won 11 of 12 marathons since moving to road racing after failing to make Kenya’s 2012 Olympic track team.

He has yet to race the two most prestigious marathons in the U.S. — Boston and New York City — but has said they are on his bucket list.

MORE: Eliud Kipchoge opines on shoe technology debate

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Canadians become first female doubles luge team in World Cup

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WHISTLER, British Columbia (AP) — Caitlin Nash and Natalie Corless made luge history Saturday, becoming the first female team to compete in a World Cup doubles race.

The 16-year-olds from Whistler combined to finish 22nd in a field of 23 sleds, though that seemed largely irrelevant. There have been four-woman teams in what is typically called four-man bobsledding, but luge has never seen a pairing like this until now.

The German sled of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken won the race in 1 minute, 16.644 seconds. Germany’s Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt finished second and the Russian team of Vsevolod Kashkin and Konstantin Korshunov placed third for their first medal of the season.

The U.S. team of Chris Mazdzer and Jayson Terdiman placed 11th.

But the story was the Canadian teens, who qualified for the World Cup event on Thursday. They were nearly a half-second behind any other finisher and almost 2.7 seconds back of Eggert and Benecken. But they’ll forever be able to say that they were winning the race at one point — a technicality because they were the first ones down the hill at the Whistler Sliding Center, but accurate nonetheless.

The only sled they beat was the Italian team of Ivan Nagler and Fabian Malleier, who crashed in the second heat.

There are women’s singles and men’s singles races on the World Cup luge circuit, but there is no rule saying doubles teams must be composed of two men. There have been more female doubles racers at the junior level in recent years, and it was generally considered to be just a matter of time before it happened at the World Cup level.

That time became Saturday.

Canada had the chance to qualify a second sled into the doubles field because some teams typically on the circuit chose to skip this weekend’s stop, and Nash and Corless got into by successfully finishing a Nations Cup qualifying race on Thursday.

They were 11th in that race out of 11 sleds, more than a full second behind the winner and nearly a half-second behind the closest finisher. But all they had to do was cross the line without crashing to get into Saturday’s competition, and earned their spot in the luge history books as a result.

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MORE: Top U.S. bobsled driver pregnant, to miss season