The Associated Press They’re the friendly face of North Korea, and it looks like they’re coming south to the Olympics.
With sparkling costumes and winning smiles, figure skaters Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik could lead the North Korean team in Pyeongchang, South Korea, next month after their government said Tuesday it would send athletes to the Winter Games.
Ryom and Kim are the only North Korean athletes who have qualified for the Feb. 9-25 Olympics so far. However, the International Olympic Committee could potentially hold extra invitational spots open to symbolize togetherness between the two Koreas.
Ryom and Kim almost certainly won’t win a medal in the fiercely competitive world of pairs skating, but they’ve already won friends against a backdrop of political tension.
In their world championship debut last year in Finland, Ryom and Kim put in two spirited performances to enthusiastic applause from the crowd as they finished 15th, above one of the two U.S. pairs and a string of more experienced European competitors.
They weren’t afraid to show their feelings, either. The 18-year-old Ryom punched the air with joy on finishing the short program to a Jeff Beck cover of The Beatles classic “A Day in the Life.”
Ryom and Kim embraced in their matching silver-and-black costumes before soaking up the crowd’s cheers and skating off to celebrate with their coaches.
Rarely seen abroad, they have given little away about their lives, other than that they train in the North Korean capital.
At the world championships, Kim said he was keen to take part in “a big competition” when asked about the Olympics through a translator from his team. They wouldn’t talk about visiting South Korea and walked away when asked about their choice of music.
North Korea was far from certain to compete in Pyeongchang. It boycotted the only other Olympics hosted in South Korea, the Seoul Games of 1988, and often has skipped the Winter Olympics entirely.
It hasn’t won a winter medal since 1992 and its last team, in 2010, consisted of just one figure skater and one speed skater, neither of whom came close to the podium.
Even with a deal for North Korea to compete in Pyeongchang, the two Koreas and the IOC face some thorny issues of protocol.
Flags, anthems and the opening ceremony all will require delicate negotiations.
Mutko adds his appeal to CAS
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The Court of Arbitration for Sport has received 20 more appeals from Russian athletes against Olympic doping bans, taking the total to 42.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko also lodged his appeal against a lifetime ban from the Olympics, the sports court said on Tuesday.
While Mutko’s case will not be heard until after next month’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, the athletes’ appeals will be fast-tracked.
CAS said those cases will be heard together in the week beginning Jan. 22, and it expects verdicts will be issued by Jan. 31.
That is nine days before the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Games, and three days after the International Olympic Committee’s deadline for entries, other than those in exceptional circumstances.