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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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MORE: Full U.S. roster for PyeongChang Paralympics

April Ross, Alix Klineman back atop Olympic beach volleyball qualifying

April Ross, Alix Klineman
FIVB World Tour
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Two-time Olympic medalist April Ross and new partner Alix Klineman moved back on top of the U.S. Olympic beach volleyball qualifying standings by winning an event in Itapema, Brazil this week.

Ross, who split from Kerri Walsh Jennings in 2017, and Klineman beat Canadians Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes 25-23, 18-21, 15-10 in Sunday’s final for their third title in 11 FIVB World Tour tournaments together.

“Every victory is important, but this counts for more,” Klineman said, according to the FIVB. “We want to send a message and we want to be consistently the best.

Ross and Klineman supplanted Walsh Jennings and her new partner, Brooke Sweat, for the lead in the early U.S. Olympic qualifying rankings with still more than a year of events ahead.

1. Ross/Klineman – 3,240 (5 events played)
2. Walsh Jennings/Sweat – 3,100 (7 events)
3. Day/Flint – 2,180 (5 events)
4. Hughes/Ross — 2,000 (4 events)
5. Larsen/Stockman — 1,840 (5 events)
6. Sponcil/Claes — 1,600 (3 events)

Each team’s 12 best results from Sept. 1, 2018, to June 14, 2020, go into the Olympic qualifying rankings. That means Ross and Klineman are comfortably in front, having played two fewer events than Walsh Jennings and Sweat, who lost in the quarterfinals in Itapema.

The top two U.S. pairs come June 15, 2020, provided they’re ranked high enough internationally, will qualify for Tokyo. Most of the qualifying events, including the ones with the most points available, are still to come this summer.

Ross, 36, picked up Klineman, 29, after Walsh Jennings didn’t join her in signing a domestic AVP contract in 2017. The 6-foot-5 Klineman primarily played indoor the previous decade, including at Stanford from 2007-10 after being the Gatorade National Player of the Year coming out of high school.

MORE: Brazil volleyball star faints during courtside interview

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Katie Ledecky extends 5-year win streak

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Katie Ledecky extended a five-year domestic win streak by taking the 200m freestyle at the Tyr Pro Swim Series at Bloomington on Saturday.

In her last full meet before July’s world championships, Ledecky clocked 1:55.80 to beat training partner Simone Manuel by 1.44 seconds for her second win in as many days. Ledecky is also entered in Sunday’s 800m free on the last day of the meet.

Ledecky, who also cruised to a 400m free victory on Friday, ranks third in the world in the 200m free this year, behind Australian Ariarne Titmus and Swede Sarah Sjöström (the Olympic silver medalist who is not expected to race the 200m free at worlds).

Ledecky, a five-time Olympic champion, hasn’t lost a 200m, 400m, 800m or 1500m free final at a domestic meet since Allison Schmitt beat her in a 200m free on Jan. 18, 2014 when Ledecky was 16 years old.

BLOOMINGTON: Full Results

But Ledecky lost the two biggest 200m frees of this Olympic cycle so far, at the 2017 World Championships and the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships. Italian veteran Federica Pellegrini handed Ledecky her first individual final defeat at a major international meet at 2017 Worlds.

Ledecky dropped to third in the 200m free at Pan Pacs in Tokyo last year, beaten by younger swimmers Taylor Ruck of Canada and Rikako Ikee of Japan.

Ruck, who like Ledecky trains at Stanford, is in Bloomington, but she chose not to swim the 200m free on Saturday. She instead swam the 200m backstroke about 45 minutes after the 200m free and was upset by 17-year-old Regan Smith. Smith won in 2:06.47, moving to No. 3 in the world this year.

In other events Saturday, Ella Eastin captured the 400m individual medley in 4:37.18, taking 1.25 seconds off her personal best and moving to fifth in the world this year. Eastin is not on the world championships team after an untimely bout with mono before qualifying meets last summer.

Blake Pieroni won the men’s 200m free in 1:47.25. No American ranks in the top 20 in the world this year. World silver medalist Townley Haas did not enter Bloomington.

MORE: Olympic breaststroke champion faces ban for missed drug tests

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