AP

North, South Korea hockey players meet, shout ‘We are one!’

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Female hockey players from the rival Koreas were paired up with each other Thursday to form their first-ever Olympic squad as their countries press ahead with rare reconciliation steps following a period of nuclear tensions.

A dozen North Korean hockey players wearing white-and-red winter parkas crossed the heavily fortified border into South Korea earlier Thursday, as about 30-40 conservative activists shouted anti-Pyongyang slogans at a nearby border area.

The North Koreans traveled on to a national athletes’ village in southern South Korea, where they were welcomed by their South Korean teammates and Canadian coach Sarah Murray, who presented them flower bouquets in an outdoor welcoming ceremony.

“I sincerely welcome your arrival,” Lee Jae-kun, head of the athletes’ village, told the North Koreans after they got off a bus.

Pak Chol Ho, a North Korean coach who arrived with the 12 athletes and two support staff, told reporters that he’s happy to team up with South Koreans.

“I’m very pleased with the fact that North and South are united as one to participate in [the Olympics]. I expect we’ll see good results if we unite our efforts … though we don’t have much time,” he said.

The Korean players later shouted “We are one!” and took a group photo. North and South Korean players plan to practice separately for several days as Murray needs time to learn about the North Koreans.

The players were sharing the same locker room, and the lockers of the North Korean players were deliberately placed between those of their South Korean teammates so that they could become close quickly, according to Yonhap News Agency.

The Koreas fielded a single team to major sports events only twice, both in 1991. One event was the world table tennis championships and the other soccer’s World Youth Championship.

But this is the first time they’ve assembled a single team for the Olympics.

The Koreas explored how to cooperate in the Olympics after the North’s leader Kim Jong Un abruptly said in his New Year’s address that he was willing to send an Olympic delegation.

As part of the rapprochement deals, the Koreas also agreed for their athletes to march together under a single flag during the Feb. 9 Opening Ceremony.

The International Olympic Committee allowed 22 North Korean athletes, including the 12 hockey players, to compete in PyeongChang in exceptional entries given to the North, which qualified zero athletes from the Games.

The 10 others will compete in figure skating, short track speed skating, Alpine skiing and cross-country skiing. They will come to South Korea on Feb. 1.

The joint hockey team deal triggered a backlash in South Korea, with a survey showing about 70 percent of respondents opposing the idea because it would deprive South Korean players of playing time.

The IOC-brokered agreement requires at least three North Korean players to suit up for each game, meaning that three from South Korea’s original roster cannot play in those games.

Murray has said that the North Koreans’ hard-hitting style would make them suited to be her fourth line, a group of players who are typically asked to provide strong physical play in short bursts while giving their teammates with greater scoring responsibilities a chance to rest.

Murray, who examined the North Koreans first-hand during an event in Gangneung last year, has identified five players as memorable, but among them, only forwards Jong Su Hyon and Kim Hyang Mi made the trip for the Olympics.

The unified Korean team will open their group action against Switzerland on Feb. 10.

It will then face Sweden on Feb. 12 and Japan on Feb. 14.

What draws attention is its Japan match, as many in both Koreas still harbor bitter resentment against Japan’s 35-year colonial rule that ended in 1945, three years before two different governments were formally established on the Korean Peninsula.

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MORE: Korea Olympic hockey coach: No pressure to play North Koreans

141 women accept ESPYs Arthur Ashe Courage Award for Larry Nassar survivors

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A total of 141 women accepted the ESPYs’ Arthur Ashe Courage Award on Wednesday night for the hundreds of Larry Nassar survivors, according to ESPN.

“1997. 1998. 1999. 2000. 2004. 2011. 2013. 2014. 2015. 2016,” Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman said on stage. “These were the years we spoke up about Larry Nassar’s abuse. All those years, we were told, you are wrong. You misunderstood. He’s a doctor. It’s OK. Don’t worry. We’ve got it covered. Be careful. There are risks involved. The intention? To silence us. In favor of money, medals and reputation.

“But we persisted, and finally, someone listened and believed us. This past January, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina showed a profound level of understanding by giving us each the opportunity to face our abuser, to speak our truth and feel heard. Thank you, Judge Aquilina [in attendance], for honoring our voices.

“For too long, we were ignored, and you helped us rediscover the power we each possess. You may never meet the hundreds of children you saved, but know they exist. The ripple effect of our actions, or inactions, can be enormous, spanning generations.

“Perhaps the greatest tragedy of this nightmare is that it could have been avoided. Predators thrive in silence. It is all too common for people to choose to not get involved. Whether you act or do nothing, you are shaping the world that we live in, impacting others.

“All we needed was one adult to have the integrity to stand between us and Larry Nassar. If just one adult had listened, believed and acted, the people standing before you on this stage would have never met him. Too often, abusers and enablers perpetuate suffering by making survivors feel their truth doesn’t matter. To all the survivors out there, don’t let anyone rewrite your story. Your truth does matter, you matter and you are not alone.

“We all face hardships. If we choose to listen, and we choose to act with empathy, we can draw strength from each other. We may suffer alone, but we survive together.”

The Ashe award, named after the Grand Slam tennis champion and human rights advocate, goes to those with “strength in the face of adversity, courage in the face of peril and the willingness to stand up for their beliefs no matter what the cost.”

Previous Olympian recipients include Muhammad AliCathy FreemanTommie Smith and John CarlosPat Summitt and Caitlyn Jenner.

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MORE: Aly Raisman, Chloe Kim appear in Maroon 5 music video

Erin Hamlin to run New York City Marathon

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Erin Hamlin, the first U.S. Olympic singles luge medalist and Team USA flag bearer at the PyeongChang Olympic Opening Ceremony, will run the New York City Marathon on Nov. 4.

Hamlin, a 2014 Olympic bronze medalist who retired after her fourth Olympics in PyeongChang at age 31, is running to fundraise for the Women’s Sports Foundation. So is Marlen Esparza, who in 2012 became the first U.S. Olympic women’s boxing medalist (flyweight bronze).

Hamlin has no marathon experience, according to the Women’s Sports Foundation.

“Being challenged in sport is something I am very familiar with,” Hamlin said in a mass email Wednesday, according to TeamUSA.org. “Long distance running is something I most certainly am not!! It will be difficult, mentally and physically daunting, but a way to test my abilities in a sport so far out of my comfort zone.”

Many Olympians in non-running sports have raced the New York City Marathon.

Bill Demong, the 2010 U.S. Olympic Closing Ceremony flag bearer and only U.S. Olympic Nordic combined champion, ran the 2014 NYC Marathon in 2:33:05, crushing eight-time Olympic medalist Apolo Ohno‘s 3:25:14 from 2011.

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