Ri­val Koreas may share sled

The Standard Journal - - NATIONAL SPORTS - As­so­ci­ated Press Sports Writer By Tim Reynolds

Bob­sled diplo­macy could be part of the Win­ter Olympics.

Sliders from North Korea and South Korea may share a four- man sled at next month’s games, with coach­ing pro­vided by top in­ter­na­tional of­fi­cials from Italy and the United States. The sled wouldn’t be part of the ac­tual Olympic com­pe­ti­tion, but one of the fore­run­ning sleds sent down to test con­di­tions be­fore rac­ing be­gins.

The plan hasn’t been fi­nal­ized, and more talks are likely in the com­ing week at the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee head­quar­ters in Switzer­land.

In­ter­na­tional Bob­sled and Skele­ton Fed­er­a­tion Pres­i­dent and IOC mem­ber Ivo Fer­ri­ani of Italy ini­tially pre­sented the idea. The ri­val Koreas would each get two spots in the sled, and the team would be trained in the days lead­ing up to the four-man com­pe­ti­tion by Fer­ri­ani and fel­low IBSF of­fi­cial Dar­rin Steele — the CEO of USA Bob­sled and Skele­ton.

“This looks like it could hap­pen,” said Steele, a two- time Olympian for the U.S. “I like the idea of sup­port­ing any kind of co­op­er­a­tion be­tween North and South Korea. Sport is a great av­enue for that.”

Steele’s in­volve­ment means the sled would have North Kore­ans work­ing along­side at least one Amer­i­can at a time of political ten­sion be­tween the coun­tries. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have traded rhetoric and in­sults over the last year, as North Korea has ac­cel­er­ated weapons tests and appears on the cusp of hav­ing a nu­clear-tipped mis­sile that could strike the U.S. main­land.

The IOC has said it views any co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the ri­val Koreas dur­ing the Pyeongchang Games as “a great step for­ward in the Olympic spirit.”

Dur­ing rare talks be­tween the ri­val Koreas on Tues­day, North Korea agreed to take part in the Olympics by send­ing a del­e­ga­tion of of­fi­cials, ath­letes, cheer­lead­ers and jour­nal­ists to Pyeongchang. There have been some talks about hav­ing North Korean hockey play­ers skat­ing with South Kore­ans.

These Olympics wouldn’t be the first to bring the Koreas to­gether. Ath­letes from both na­tions have walked in sev­eral past Olympic open­ing cer­e­monies to­gether un­der a “uni­fi­ca­tion flag.”

Hav­ing U. S. sport in­volve­ment with North Kore­ans is also a nod to what be­came known as “Ping­Pong diplo­macy,” born from a week of table tennis matches be­tween U.S. and Chi­nese play­ers in 1971. Those few days the teams spent to­gether are cred­ited with help­ing open China to the world and restor­ing diplo­matic ties be­tween the coun­tries.

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