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North Korean figure skaters advance in Olympic debut

By Emily Pacenti
North Korean figure skaters advance in Olympic debut
Tae Ok Ryom and Ju Sik Kim of North Korea compete in the Pairs Figure Skating Short Program during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics, at the Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung, South Korea, on February 14, 2018. Photo by Richard Ellis/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 13 (UPI) -- North Korea's figure-skating pair Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik skated a clean short program in their first Olympics Wednesday morning in Pyeongchang -- and earned enough points to advance to the free skate.

"They sell it," NBC commentator Tara Lipinski during the pair's energetic step sequence set to "A Day in the Life" by The Beatles.

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Every element in the program was performed cleanly, including a big throw triple loop and successful side-by-side jumps. Ryom's arms were not above her head in the routine's triple twist, so it earned a level 3 rather than 4, but the score -- 69.40 -- is one of their best.

Ryom, 19, and Kim, 25, are the only North Korean athletes who qualified for the Olympics on their own, having earned their spot at the Nebelhorn Trophy in 2017.

"I think they could be contenders in Beijing," Lipinski said of the 2022 Winter Games.

The podium will likely be out of reach for the North Koreans, with many powerhouse pair skaters to come, including Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada, Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany and Evgenia Tarasova and VladimirMorozov of Russia.

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The pairs free skate event is Thursday morning in South Korea, 8 p.m. Wednesday Eastern time.

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