South, North Korea agree to form joint Olympic team, march together

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea and North Korea agreed Wednesday to form their first unified Olympic team and march together in the Opening Ceremony for the first time since 2006.

The agreements still require approval from the International Olympic Committee.

But they are the most prominent steps toward rapprochement achieved by the Koreas since they recently began exploring cooperation during the Olympics.

During their third day of talks at the border in about a week, senior officials reached a package of agreements including fielding a joint women’s hockey team and marching together under a blue and white “unification flag” depicting their peninsula in the Opening Ceremony, Seoul’s Unification Ministry said.

A joint statement distributed by the ministry said the North Korean Olympic delegation will travel to South Korea across their heavily fortified land border before the Feb. 9-25 PyeongChang Games.

It said the delegation will include a 230-member cheering group, a 30-member taekwondo demonstration team, journalists, athletes and officials.

Ahead of the Olympics, the Koreas will hold a joint cultural event at the North’s scenic Diamond Mountain and have non-Olympic skiers train together at the North’s Masik ski resort, according to the statement.

It said the North also plans to send a 150-strong delegation to the Paralympics in March. The North earlier said it would send a 140-member art troupe.

The agreements are highly symbolic and emotional.

But it’s still not clear how many North Korean athletes will come to PyeongChang because none are currently qualified.

South Korean media have predicted only up to 10 North Korean athletes will end up being covered by an additional quota from the IOC.

A pair of North Korean figure skaters qualified for this year’s Olympics, but North Korea missed a deadline to confirm their participation.

The IOC said recently it has “kept the door open” for North Korea to take part in the Games.

IOC officials are to meet with sports and government officials from the two Koreas and officials from the PyeongChang organizing committee in Switzerland on Saturday.

The IOC said in statement Wednesday that it has “taken note of a number of interesting proposals from different sources.”

“There are many considerations with regard to the impact of these proposals on the other participating NOCs (national Olympic committees) and athletes. After having taken all this into consideration, the IOC will take its final decisions on Saturday in Lausanne,” it said.

The two Koreas sent joint teams to major international sports events twice previously, both in 1991.

One event was the world table tennis championships in Chiba, Japan, where the women’s team won the championship by beating the powerful Chinese, and the other was soccer’s World Youth Championship in Portugal, where the Korean team reached the quarterfinals.

During an era of detente in the 2000s, their athletes marched together in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of nine international sporting events including the 2000, 2004 and 2006 Olympics, but they failed to produce a joint team.

Their last joint march was at the Asian Winter Games in Changchun, China, in 2007.

The current reconciliation mood began after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said in a New Year’s speech that he was willing to send a delegation to the Games.

South Korea wants the IOC to allow its hockey team’s 23-player Olympic roster to be expanded so that several North Korean players can be added without removing any of the South Korean players.

But there are worries in South Korea that adding new players less than a month before the Olympics will weaken the team and deprive South Korean players of playing time.

Chief South Korean delegate Chun Hae-sung said the government is well aware of such concerns and North Korea has agreed that the South Korean coach Sarah Murray will be given full authority to select North Korean players to compete.

“If South and North Korea form one team and compete in the Games, that will be an everlasting historic event, which I think will move our people and people around the world,” South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Wednesday.

Murray said a joint team would be a distraction and present challenges, according to Yonhap News Agency.

“I think there is damage to our player,” Murray said Tuesday, according to Yonhap. “It’s hard because the players have earned their spots, and they think they deserve to go to the Olympics. Then you have people being added later. It definitely affects our players.

“This is another distraction, and we have to worry about things we can control. We can’t control this situation.

“Adding somebody so close to the Olympics is a little bit dangerous just for team chemistry because the girls have been together for so long. Teaching systems and different things … I’d have about a month to teach these (new) players the way our team plays. That makes me a little nervous.

“I hope that I am not being pressured to play (North Koreans). I am hoping we can just play the way we play and not have the influence of, ‘I need to play this player.’ I just want the best players to play. If you play your best, then you earn your ice time. Whether you’re South Korean or North Korean, they have to earn their place.”

North Korea boycotted the previous Olympics held in South Korea, the Summer Olympics in Seoul in 1988.

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Lawsuit alleges USA Diving ignored sex abuse of divers

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Two former divers are suing USA Diving, accusing the national governing body of ignoring or obstructing inquiries into allegations that a coach sexually abused them when they were young athletes dreaming of Olympic glory.

The federal lawsuit, filed last week, names Indianapolis-based USA Diving, Inc., the Ohio State University Diving Club and Will Bohonyi.

The suit alleges that Bohonyi, who had coached at the Ohio State University Diving Club and was fired in 2014, coerced and forced the divers into frequent sex, telling them, “You owe me this,” the Indianapolis Star reported.

Calls to a telephone listing for Bohonyi’s most recent Columbus, Ohio, address went unanswered.

USA Diving declined to comment Monday, with a spokeswoman saying that, “Providing a safe environment for our members is of tremendous importance to USA Diving, and we take these matters very seriously.”

Ohio State spokesman Ben Johnson said the school opened an administrative investigation in 2014 after learning about the allegations against Bohonyi and he was fired in August 2014.

The university said Bohonyi was hired as a part-time, paid assistant diving coach in September 2012 and remained in that role until his termination.

Bohonyi has been on USA Diving’s list of banned coaches since 2015, but the lawsuit alleges that action didn’t happen until six months after Ohio State University investigated one of the women’s allegations and fired him. The report, the suit contends, was provided to USA Diving.

During that time period, it alleges that Bohonyi forced that girl — an Olympic hopeful — to perform sex acts numerous times while she was a minor.

She also sent him hundreds of naked photos, the suit alleges, saying that Bohonyi “psychologically coerced” her into believing that she “was required to perform sexual services in exchange for her continued involvement in diving.”

“He preyed on her age, vulnerability, and dreams of becoming an Olympian, and used the power structure and imbalance of power (coach/athlete) to make her believe she was required to sexually service him in exchange for her involvement in diving for Team USA,” it alleges.

The suit also alleges that Ohio State has had possession of the naked photos for almost four years and “no action has been taken.”

Ohio State said it notified campus police, USA Diving and Franklin County Children’s Services, as well as law enforcement in Montgomery County, Maryland, where the lawsuit says teammates discovered the diver’s sexual relationship with Bohonyi at a national competition.

Johnson said Monday that a campus police investigation was opened in August 2014 and then closed at the complainant’s request before being reopened this January, also at the former diver’s request.

He said university police are working with the county prosecutor’s office in that pending investigation.

Allegations of sexual misconduct also are the focus of a separate, independent investigation pending about a now-dead Ohio State team doctor accused of groping male athletes and other students decades ago.

The physician, Richard Strauss, worked at Ohio State for two decades before retiring in 1998. The university says allegations against Strauss have been raised by former athletes from 14 sports. The independent investigators are reviewing those claims and well as whether the university knew of concerns about Strauss.

The other diver named in the lawsuit alleges that starting in 2009, that Bohonyi, who was her coach, cultivated an abusive relationship, eventually coercing her into daily sex.

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Usain Bolt set to join Australian soccer team

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Usain Bolt agreed in principle to join an Australian soccer team in the nation’s top division, the Central Coast Mariners, a soccer agent said Tuesday.

“The deal between the Mariners and Usain Bolt, in principle, has been agreed, subject to a couple of benchmarks, namely a trial and, of course, some marquee funds support from the FFA [Australian Football Federation],” agent Tony Rallis said in a radio interview. “They understand that he has to go through six weeks of a trial.”

The eight-time Olympic champion Bolt has long harbored dreams of playing pro soccer.

Since retiring last summer, the 31-year-old Jamaican has trained alongside club teams in South Africa, Jamaica and Norway, plus had a much-publicized visit with Borussia Dortmund in March. Bolt and Dortmund share an apparel sponsor in Puma.

“This bloke’s an ambitious athlete,” Rallis said. “You know, the A-League needed a hero, and we got Superman. … If he’s competitive, he will lift our A-League profile, he will create dreams of young people and he will give the A-League a profile no amount of money can buy,”

The Central Coast Mariners, based in Gosford in New South Wales, won four matches and lost 15 last season, finishing 10th in the 10-team A-League. There is no relegation in Australian soccer.

“There’s still a lot of work to do in regards to understanding exactly how the deal would work out and how things would look, but things are very positive at the moment,” Central Coast Mariners CEO Shaun Mielekamp said on Australia’s Seven Network. “It looks like a good six-week trial period that we would be able to facilitate. If all goes well, who knows, he might be lighting up the A-League this season.”

The 2018-19 regular season starts in October.

“It would only be big if he can play and if he can go really, really well,” Mielekamp said. “If he comes, and he’s not up to the level, then it actually has a detrimental effect.”

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