North Korean figure-skating pair qualify for Winter Olympics

By Emily Pacenti

Oct. 1 (UPI) -- A pair of North Korean figure skaters have become the first athletes from the reclusive country to qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Ryom Tae-Ok, 18, and Kim Ju-Sik, 25, placed sixth overall at the Nebelhorn Trophy competition in Oberstdorf, Germany, a designated Olympic qualifying event that ended Friday.


While the skaters earned North Korea a spot in the competition, it will be up to the North Korean Olympic Committee to decide who, if anyone, will go to Pyeongchang.

Ryom and Kim took 15th place in the first qualifying event of the season, the 2017 World Championships in Helsinki, Finland, failing to qualify for an Olympic spot.

At the Nebelhorn, the top two competitors -- Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov of Russia, who took gold, and Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany, who took silver -- had all already qualified. So Ryom and Kim's sixth-place finish was enough to secure an Olympic spot for North Korea.

North Korea had no competitors in the 2014 Winter Games, but it has some prospects in the upcoming qualifying tournaments for speed skating.


South Korea has repeatedly said the doors are open for the North to participate. The International Olympic Committee has expressed its support for the South Korean initiative of bringing North Korean athletes on board, Yonhap reported.

Tensions have been rising on the peninsula over North Korea's test missile launches and fiery verbal threats.

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