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North, South Korea may share bobsled in PyeongChang

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Bobsled diplomacy could be part of the Winter Olympics.

Sliders from North Korea and South Korea may share a four-man sled in PyeongChang, with coaching provided by top international officials from Italy and the United States.

The sled wouldn’t be part of the actual Olympic competition, but one of the forerunning sleds sent down to test conditions before racing begins.

The plan hasn’t been finalized, and more talks are likely in the coming week at the International Olympic Committee headquarters in Switzerland.

International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation President and IOC member Ivo Ferriani of Italy initially presented the idea.

The rival Koreas would each get two spots in the sled, and the team would be trained in the days leading up to the four-man competition by Ferriani and fellow IBSF official Darrin Steele — the CEO of USA Bobsled and Skeleton.

“This looks like it could happen,” said Steele, a two-time Olympian for the U.S. “I like the idea of supporting any kind of cooperation between North and South Korea. Sport is a great avenue for that.”

Steele’s involvement means the sled would have North Koreans working alongside at least one American at a time of political tension between the countries.

The IOC has said it views any cooperation between the rival Koreas in PyeongChang as “a great step forward in the Olympic spirit.”

During rare talks between the rival Koreas on Tuesday, North Korea agreed to take part in the Olympics by sending a delegation of officials, athletes, cheerleaders and journalists to PyeongChang.

There have been some talks about having North Korean hockey players skating with South Koreans.

These Olympics wouldn’t be the first to bring the Koreas together.

Athletes from both nations have walked in past Olympic Opening Ceremonies together under a “unification flag.”

Having U.S. sport involvement with North Koreans is also a nod to what became known as “Ping-Pong diplomacy,” born from a week of table tennis matches between U.S. and Chinese players in 1971.

Those few days the teams spent together are credited with helping open China to the world and restoring diplomatic ties between the countries.

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MORE: South Korea proposes unified Korea Olympic women’s hockey team

Bernard Lagat commits to Olympic marathon trials, eyes age record

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Bernard Lagat, a 44-year-old, five-time Olympian, reportedly said he will race the Olympic marathon trials on Feb. 29 in a bid to break his own record as the oldest U.S. Olympic runner.

“I feel like I can still improve,” Lagat said, according to Runner’s World. “I’m going to give it my best.”

Lagat, a two-time Olympic 1500m medalist, moved to the marathon after becoming the oldest U.S. Olympic runner in history at the Rio Games, placing fifth in the 5000m.

He clocked 2:17:20 in his 26.2-mile debut at the 2018 New York City Marathon. He lowered it to 2:12:10 at the Gold Coast Marathon in Australia on July 7 but did not previously commit to entering the trials.

If Lagat finishes in the top three at the marathon trials, he is in line to become the third-oldest U.S. Olympic track and field athlete in history. The oldest are race walker John Deni (49 years old in 1952) and hammer thrower Matt McGrath (48 years old in 1924), according to the OlyMADMen.

Lagat ranks outside the top 20 among U.S. marathoners in this Olympic cycle. The fastest are Galen Rupp (2:06:07), Leonard Korir (2:07:56, from Sunday’s Amsterdam Marathon) and Scott Fauble (2:09:09).

No American has competed in six Olympics in track and field. Lagat’s first two Olympic appearances were for Kenya.

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MORE: Olympic marathon moved from Tokyo to another Olympic host city

Natalie Geisenberger, Olympic luge champion, will not race this season

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For the first time in eight years, there will be a new World Cup women’s luge champion.

Germany’s Natalie Geisenberger — the seven-time defending champion and two-time defending Olympic singles gold medalist — announced that she isn’t sliding this season because she and her husband are expecting their first child in April.

“Our happiness is on the way,” Geisenberger said on her Facebook page.

Geisenberger plans to return next season and still has hopes to compete at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, where she could match fellow German great Georg Hackl’s feat of winning three consecutive singles golds.

With Geisenberger not sliding this season, the top returning women from last year’s World Cup standings now are Julia Taubitz of Germany and Summer Britcher of the U.S. — second and third, respectively, in 2018-19.

Geisenberger has a luge record-tying four Olympic golds in all, being part of Germany’s victories in the team relays in Sochi in 2014 and Pyeongchang in 2018 as well.

Her 49 World Cup singles wins are another record, and she’s one of two sliders to win seven consecutive World Cup titles — Austria’s Markus Prock took the men’s championships each year from 1990-91 through 1996-97.

Geisenberger’s break from sliding only adds to how the World Cup standings — and the German roster — will look very different this season. Dajana Eitberger, who was fourth in last season’s World Cup standings, is also pregnant and expecting a baby in February. And Tatjana Huefner, who was sixth overall last season, has retired.

Huefner won five consecutive World Cup titles before Geisenberger took over and began her seven-year streak of championships. Geisenberger earned medals 11 times in 12 singles races last year — six golds, four silvers and one bronze.

“We are so happy for you even though we will miss you this season!” two-time Olympic singles gold medalist Felix Loch of Germany wrote in a message to Geisenberger on Instagram.

Geisenberger has been in the top three of the World Cup standings in 12 consecutive seasons. She was third in 2007-08, finished second in each of the next four seasons, and then began her title streak in 2012-13.

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MORE: U.S. luge star adds doubles after Olympic singles medal