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North Korea misses Olympic figure skating deadline, but door still open

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At the moment, North Korea has no athletes qualified for the PyeongChang Olympics. But that could change.

North Korea’s Olympic Committee missed an Oct. 30 deadline to confirm it would send its qualified pairs figure skating team to the Winter Games.

The International Skating Union confirmed Tuesday that it has received no communication from North Korea, which qualified a pairs spot in September.

By ISU rules, the pairs spot originally earned by North Korea will be offered in two weeks to the top nation not already qualified, which is currently Japan. Japan would have until Dec. 21 to tell the ISU that it plans to use the spot.

The ISU said that North Korea could still be added to the Olympic pairs field, but the move would have to come from the International Olympic Committee.

An IOC spokesperson did not address that possibility later Tuesday, repeating that North Korea’s Olympic Committee has been invited to the Olympics, and the IOC has offered its support.

The IOC, as well as PyeongChang organizers and South Korean officials, have repeatedly said they want North Korea to participate in the Olympics.

“The position of the IOC is very clear,” IOC president Thomas Bach said in June, according to The Associated Press. “We have already invited the DPRK (North Korea) to participate in the Winter Games in 2018. We are supporting athletes in order to assist them to qualify for the Olympic Games.”

There have also been reports that North Korean athletes could receive Olympic spots without qualifying.

A North Korean sports ministry official said North Korean athletes will be at the Olympics, the governor of PyeongChang’s province reportedly said in April.

That statement came five months before pairs figure skaters Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik became the first North Korean athletes to qualify Olympic spots for the country.

“It is up to the North Korean Olympic Committee to decide whether they will participate or not,” the pair’s coach, Kim Hyon Son, said after they qualified, according to The New York Times.

Ryom, 18, and Kim, 25, could become the first North Koreans to compete at an Olympics hosted by South Korea. North Korea boycotted the 1988 Seoul Games.

It wasn’t certain that North Korea would qualify any athletes for PyeongChang.

Despite winning at least four medals at every Summer Games since the boycott, North Korea didn’t have any athletes at the Sochi Olympics and just two at Vancouver 2010.

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Chinese figure skating judges banned for biased Olympic scoring

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Two Chinese figure skating judges were suspended by the International Skating Union for biased judging at the PyeongChang Olympics.

Chen Weiguang and Huang Feng had “preferential marking” for top Chinese skaters Jin Boyang (fourth place in PyeongChang) and the silver medalist pairs’ team of Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, respectively, according to the ISU.

Chen was banned two years and excluded from the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Huang got a one-year ban.

Chen awarded her highest grades of execution scores of the men’s competition to Jin, as well as her second-highest program components scores, trailing only gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu. Both sets of scores, in both the short and long programs, were out of line with the other eight judges.

“There is evidence of preference for the Chinese skater and prejudice against his strongest competitors,” an ISU report read. “Her marks were completely unrealistic.”

The pairs’ judge Huang “obviously favored his pair also vis-à-vis the other top candidates for the Olympic gold medal,” the ISU said in a report, referencing inflated scores for Sui and Han and lower scores for gold and bronze medalists Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada.

Huang was warned one month before the Olympics by the ISU for biased judging at the December 2017 Grand Prix Final pairs’ event.

Both suspensions are subject to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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Javier Fernandez to skip Grand Prix, still compete next season

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Javier Fernandez, who in PyeongChang became the first Spanish Olympic figure skating medalist, will skip the fall Grand Prix series but return for January’s European Championships, which could be his final competition.

Europeans will be Fernandez’s focus for the season, his agent said Tuesday.

Fernandez, 26, added an Olympic bronze medal to his 2015 and 2016 World titles. He has said that his third Olympics in PyeongChang would be his last. But Fernandez did not say he would retire after the Winter Games, though he did skip the world championships in March.

Fernandez now plans to compete in his 13th straight European Championships in Minsk in January. He won the last six titles. It’s unknown if he will continue on to the world championships in Saitama, Japan, in March.

In Fernandez’s absence, the top male singles skaters in the fall Grand Prix season should be double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, PyeongChang silver medalist Shoma Uno and American Nathan Chen, who was fifth at the Olympics after a disastrous short program but ran away with March’s world title by the largest margin in history.

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