Kim Ju-sik

AP

North Korean skaters share podium with Americans at Olympic tune-up

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Pairs figure skaters Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik stood on the podium as “The Star-Spangled Banner” played and a North Korean flag was raised beside two American flags.

Ryom and Kim, two of 22 North Korean athletes added to the PyeongChang Olympics by the IOC, finished third Friday in a tune-up for the Winter Games at the Four Continents Championships in Taipei.

“We don’t expect a medal [at the Olympics], but just we can improve and challenge ourselves,” Kim said, according to the International Skating Union.

Americans Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea and Ashley Cain and Tim LeDuc, who are not going to the Olympics, went one-two at the event that lacked the world’s top 10 pairs.

Ryom and Kim set a personal best with 184.98 total points, moving up from fourth after the short program for bronze medals despite Ryom falling on a double Axel and turning out of a throw triple loop landing in the free skate.

Kayne and O’Shea outscored them by 9.44.

“We didn’t reach the same level as we did as in practices,” Ryom said, according to the ISU. “I’m really upset, and it’s a pity.”

Ryom and Kim, two of few North Korean winter sports athletes to compete on the top international level, were 15th at last season’s worlds.

They clinched an Olympic spot for North Korea at a September event, but North Korea did not confirm it would use the spot by an October deadine and it was given to Japan.

Ryom and Kim rank No. 21 in the world this season.

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North Korea hopes to compete in four sports in PyeongChang

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North Korea hopes to compete in figure skating, Alpine skiing, hockey and cross-country skiing at the Olympics, a PyeongChang 2018 chief organizer reportedly said Thursday.

Lee Hee-beom said the two Koreas agreed on those four sports, according to Yonhap News Agency.

The International Olympic Committee will decide on North Korea’s participation in PyeongChang, given zero North Koreans qualified outright for the Winter Games. The IOC can offer special invitations.

The two Koreas and the IOC are scheduled to discuss the North’s potential Olympic participation on Saturday.

Earlier this week, the two Koreas agreed to march together in the Opening Ceremony and compete as a joint team.

That agreement included North Koreans being added to South Korea’s women’s hockey team.

A South Korean unification minister said the two Koreas agreed to add five or six North Koreans to the 23-player team, according to Yonhap.

Again, the IOC would have to sign off on the agreement, which would put South Korea over the maximum Olympic roster size.

Figure skaters Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik appear to be the most likely North Korean athletes invited to the Olympics, given they qualified an Olympic pairs quota spot for the nation in September.

North Korea’s Olympic Committee failed to accept the spot by an Oct. 30 deadline, so it instead went to Japan.

North Korea has zero internationally relevant Alpine skiers or cross-country skiers, though those two sports have the most lenient qualifying standards in the Winter Games.

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North Korea misses Olympic figure skating deadline, but door still open

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At the moment, North Korea has no athletes qualified for the PyeongChang Olympics. But that could change.

North Korea’s Olympic Committee missed an Oct. 30 deadline to confirm it would send its qualified pairs figure skating team to the Winter Games.

The International Skating Union confirmed Tuesday that it has received no communication from North Korea, which qualified a pairs spot in September.

By ISU rules, the pairs spot originally earned by North Korea will be offered in two weeks to the top nation not already qualified, which is currently Japan. Japan would have until Dec. 21 to tell the ISU that it plans to use the spot.

The ISU said that North Korea could still be added to the Olympic pairs field, but the move would have to come from the International Olympic Committee.

An IOC spokesperson did not address that possibility later Tuesday, repeating that North Korea’s Olympic Committee has been invited to the Olympics, and the IOC has offered its support.

The IOC, as well as PyeongChang organizers and South Korean officials, have repeatedly said they want North Korea to participate in the Olympics.

“The position of the IOC is very clear,” IOC president Thomas Bach said in June, according to The Associated Press. “We have already invited the DPRK (North Korea) to participate in the Winter Games in 2018. We are supporting athletes in order to assist them to qualify for the Olympic Games.”

There have also been reports that North Korean athletes could receive Olympic spots without qualifying.

A North Korean sports ministry official said North Korean athletes will be at the Olympics, the governor of PyeongChang’s province reportedly said in April.

That statement came five months before pairs figure skaters Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik became the first North Korean athletes to qualify Olympic spots for the country.

“It is up to the North Korean Olympic Committee to decide whether they will participate or not,” the pair’s coach, Kim Hyon Son, said after they qualified, according to The New York Times.

Ryom, 18, and Kim, 25, could become the first North Koreans to compete at an Olympics hosted by South Korea. North Korea boycotted the 1988 Seoul Games.

It wasn’t certain that North Korea would qualify any athletes for PyeongChang.

Despite winning at least four medals at every Summer Games since the boycott, North Korea didn’t have any athletes at the Sochi Olympics and just two at Vancouver 2010.

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