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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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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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