North Korean Skating Success Becomes Diplomatic Question

Will North Korean athletes participate in Olympics in South Korea?
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 30, 2017 11:43 AM CDT
North Korean Skaters Qualify for South Korean Olympics
Ryom Tae-Ok and Kim Ju-Sik of North Korea compete during the pairs short program at the Figure Skating-ISU Challenger Series in Oberstdorf, Germany, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017.   (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

Amid rising nuclear tensions, two figure skaters Friday became the first North Korean athletes to qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympics, which will be held just 40 miles south of the demilitarized zone in South Korea, CNN reports. According to the New York Times, 18-year-old Ryom Tae-Ok and 25-year-old Kim Ju-Sik, who have been training in Canada with a French coach, finished with a score of 180.09 at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany. It was a career-best performance in an international competition for the pair. Kim says they were motivated by their coaches and the people cheering for them. Ryom agreed: "There were many people of different nationalities and backgrounds cheering for us. The fact that we gave them some kind of joy, that was the best part in the performance."

While Kim and Ryom's sixth place finish in Germany was enough to nab them one of the final spots in February's Olympics, it remains unclear if they'll actually compete, Reuters reports. The decision rests with the North Korea Olympic Committee. Both South Korea and the International Olympic Committee have been pushing for North Korean athletes to participate in the Games, hoping it will be a diplomatic balm for the countries. The IOC has been providing travel, equipment, and accommodation to North Korean athletes attempting to qualify (North Korean skiers and speed skaters still have a shot), and South Korea's president said North Korea will have as much time as possible to decide if it will participate. North Korea boycotted the 1988 Summer Olympics in South Korea, but it did send a women's hockey team and taekwondo team to competitions in South Korea this year. (More North Korea stories.)

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