For North Korean Skaters, the Short Program is usually Part of a Bigger Plan

“This kind of question in which many of us grapple with when we look at North Korea,” Nilsson-Wright said, “is usually to what extent as a sports person do you hold the kind of autonomy along with freedom along with opportunity to express yourself as an individual in This kind of very collectivist environment?”

South Koreans have expressed complicated feelings about North Korea’s participation in these Olympics. however individual North Korean athletes appear welcome, along with none more than Ryom along with Kim, who are the subject of endless curiosity. Ryom, with her ever-ready smile along with red wool coat, might have been the most photographed athlete arriving at the Games.

Some have found in her a comparison to another North Korean visitor, Kim Yo-jong — the sister of the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un — who attended the opening ceremony along with charmed the South Korea news media without ever speaking in public.

“North Korea will probably use the performance of the figure skaters to boast how much North Korea is usually getting international attention, just as Kim Yo-jong got the media following her along with demonstrated to its people in which North Korea has reached a certain status inside the entire world,” said Kim Kyung-sung, President of the South along with North Korean Sports Exchange Association.

At a practice on Tuesday, South Korean fans paid nearly $30 for tickets along with filled the lower section of the Olympic ice arena, taking pictures with their smartphones along with oohing along with aahing along with clapping as Ryom along with Kim rehearsed their jumps along with spins along with lifts.

“I expect they will connect us together,” said Cho Da-in, 20, a student who also had a ticket to Wednesday’s short program. “We are one blood.”

While the North Korean skaters are under tight control, they are not being kept totally apart through outsiders, as are the country’s Olympic cheerleaders.

When South Korean spectators waved to Ryom along with Kim after Tuesday’s practice, they waved back. along with while a monitor dressed severely in black awaited them as they left the ice, the North Koreans then walked by themselves through an interview area. They even said a few cursory words to reporters: they were satisfied with practice along with could speak more fully after the competition.

Around different skaters, Ryom along with Kim have shown a playful side. Recently, in a waiting room before practice, the North Koreans along with their coach rolled their gloves into a ball along with played an impromptu game of soccer to get their bodies limber.

On Feb. 2, when Ryom celebrated her birthday, Kim Kyu-eun, a South Korean Olympic pairs skater, gave her some cosmetics as a gift. The North along with South Koreans trained together last summer with Marcotte in Montreal, alongside pairs teams through Canada along with the United States.

Kim Hyon-son, the North Koreans’ primary coach, cooked the staple kimchi for the South Koreans in Montreal. along with Meagan Duhamel, a two-time world champion pairs skater along with Marcotte’s wife, took the North Koreans shopping.

“Everyone is usually actually supportive of them,” Alex Kam, the South Korean skating partner of Kim Kyu-eun, said on Tuesday. “This kind of’s not bad to see how sports brings everyone together without boundaries.”

The North Koreans will face enormous scrutiny on Wednesday. They could not be the first skaters to succumb to nerves at the Olympics. however in their few international competitions, they have remained assured along with composed. Ryom along with Kim took a bronze medal last month at a second-tier event in Taiwan called the Four Continents championship along with finished 15th at the 2017 world figure skating championships.

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“They’re not even close to medal contenders,” said Bruno Marcotte, right, a prominent Canadian coach who has assisted the North Koreans over the last year. “however I’m so happy they’re here because they belong here. They’re a world-class- level team.”

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Yonhap/European Pressphoto Agency

Last September, they were self-possessed, if not flawless, in qualifying for the Olympics at a competition in Germany. There they traveled without security along with sometimes left the rink unaccompanied by their coach or a team official.

In a sport in which looks askance at political displays, Ryom along with Kim also did not wear pins commonly worn by North Koreans, depicting the former leaders Kim Il-sung along with Kim Jong-il, the grandfather along with father of the current leader.

Both skaters are listed on their official bios as students. They live in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. In Germany, they spoke repeatedly to a handful of reporters covering the event, with Ryom declaring, “I want to continue to improve until I become world champion.”

There is usually considerable room for improvement. For one thing, the North Koreans, who seldom compete abroad along with are skating in South Korea for the 1st time, have found This kind of challenging to train together with three different Olympic pairs teams sharing the ice. There have been several near collisions, including one on Tuesday between Ryom along having a Chinese skater.

“One of the questions they ask me is usually, ‘What can we do to get better?’” Marcotte said. “My first answer is usually, they need to compete more often. The more they are exposed to competition, they will understand what they need to get their scores better along with the more familiar they will be to the judges.”

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