GANGEUNG, South Korea (AP) — North and South Korean figure skaters shared the same ice Monday for the first time at the Pyeongchang Olympics.
The North’s pair of Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik didn’t socialize much with the South Korean and Japanese athletes in their practice session, but South Korean skater Alex Kam said they’d shared a few words.
“We didn’t have much time to talk because our warmup schedule was different, but we just said ‘Hi’,” Kam said. “We were just talking about our schedule for this weekend.”
Fresh off a third-place finish at the Four Continents championship in Taiwan last month, Ryom and Kim are the only North Koreans who met the Olympic qualifying standards in their sport prior to being invited. They’re also rare among North Korean athletes in having competed at several competitions abroad, where they’d mixed with foreign skaters including Kam and his partner Kim Kyu-eun.
They’re likely to be respectable mid-level competitors in Pyeongchang, though aren’t considered medal contenders.
“They’re really friendly and really bright, so it wasn’t too difficult to get close to them,” Kam said. “It was nice to train alongside them because they’re a really good team, so when there’s good teams training with us, it pushes us a bit more.”
Despite their Four Continents bronze last month, Ryom and Kim had a few problems in practice. Ryom fell hard on a throw and failed to land two jumps, though she and Kim showed off an impressive lift, as Ryom perched on top of her partner with seemingly little effort.
Ryom and Kim regularly consulted their coaches rinkside and Kim at one point visibly winced when a Japanese skater fell near him.
They didn’t stop to chat with the dozens of assembled South Korean and international journalists.