Koreas to march separately at Paralympic Opening Ceremony

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North Korea and South Korea will march separately at the PyeongChang Paralympic Opening Ceremony on Friday, a reversal of their unified entrance at the Olympic Opening Ceremony at the same venue one month ago.

The Opening Ceremony will air live Friday at 6 a.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app. A full Paralympic TV and streaming schedule is here.

The National Paralympic Committees of South Korea and North Korea and the International Paralympic Committee had talks Thursday.

“The IPC had offered both countries the chance to march together under the same conditions as last month’s Olympic Winter Games,” the IPC said in a press release. “However, despite a day of amicable and positive discussions between the two NPCs in the Paralympic Village, the two parties have decided not to march under the same conditions as the Olympic Opening Ceremony.

The IPC recommended the Koreas march separately after the nations’ Paralympic committees disagreed about the unification flag that would have been used, according to Yonhap News Agency:

The [South Korean committee] said the two Koreas had a meeting earlier Thursday to discuss the details of the joint parade at the opening ceremony, but failed to reach agreement on whether they should march behind a Korean Unification Flag showing Dokdo — the eastern islets of South Korea that Japan claims as its own territory. Dokdo, called Takeshima in Japan, consists of a set of rocky islets lying close to the Korean Peninsula in the East Sea. It has long been a recurring source of tension between the neighbors.

The North said that it wants the flag to show Dokdo. It emphasized that not showing the islets hurts the pride of Koreans. The South, however, apparently wanted to have the Korean Unification Flag without Dokdo to respect the International Paralympic Committe (IPC)’s recommendation not to politicize sports events.

The flag without Dokdo was used when the two nations marched together at the Olympic Opening Ceremony on Feb. 9, according to Yonhap.

On Feb. 2, the IPC invited North Korea to participate in the Winter Paralympics for the first time by offering two special spots to North Korean Nordic skiers. The IPC said then that if the North Koreans accepted the invite, then the Koreas would march together in the Opening Ceremony under a unified flag.

“Although we are disappointed, we respect the decision of the two [National Paralympic Committees] who decided that marching separately would be better for both parties,” IPC president Andrew Parsons said in Thursday’s press release. “At the end of the meeting both NPCs recognized that their participation in PyeongChang 2018 has brought them closer together, and the two have committed to working more closely together in the future.”

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MORE: Full U.S. roster for PyeongChang Paralympics

Mo Farah likely to retire this year

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British track legend Mo Farah will likely retire by the end of this year.

“I’m not going to go to the Olympics, and I think 2023 will probably be my last year,” the 39-year-old Farah said, according to multiple British media reports.

Farah, who swept the 5000m and 10,000m golds at the Olympics in 2012 and 2016, was announced Tuesday as part of the field for the London Marathon on April 23.

Last May, Farah reportedly said he believed his career on the track was over, but not the roads.

London might not be his last marathon. Farah also said that if, toward the end of this year, he was capable of being picked to run for Britain again, he would “never turn that down,” according to Tuesday’s reports.

It’s not clear if Farah was referencing the world track and field championships, which include a marathon and are in Budapest in August. Or selection for the 2024 British Olympic marathon team.

The fastest British male marathoner last year ran 2:10:46, ranking outside the top 300 in the world. Farah broke 2:10 in all five marathons that he’s finished, but he hasn’t run one since October 2019 (aside from pacing the 2020 London Marathon).

Farah withdrew four days before the last London Marathon on Oct. 2, citing a right hip injury.

Farah switched from the track to the marathon after the 2017 World Championships and won the 2018 Chicago Marathon in a then-European record time of 2:05:11. Belgium’s Bashir Abdi now holds the record at 2:03:36.

Farah’s best London Marathon finish in four starts was third place in 2018.

Farah returned to the track in a failed bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, then shifted back to the roads.

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Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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