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S. Korea willing to consider joint cross-country skiing team with NK

South Korea is willing to review the possibility of forming a joint cross-country skiing team with North Korea for next month's PyeongChang Winter Olympics, a senior official at the Korea Ski Association said Thursday.

"We could review a plan to form a joint team with athletes from the South and North for the team sprint competition in cross-country skiing," the official said asking for anonymity.

According to the official, forming a joint team could move forward quickly, since the North's participation in cross-country has already been finalized.

Last week, the International Olympics Committee and the two Koreas reached an agreement over the North's participation in next month's Winter Games in the South. In all, 22 North Korean athletes will compete in women's ice hockey, figure skating, short track speed skating, cross-country skiing and alpine skiing.

Cross-country skiers compete in the 2018 Seoul International Cross-Country Competition on Jan. 5. (Yonhap)
Cross-country skiers compete in the 2018 Seoul International Cross-Country Competition on Jan. 5. (Yonhap)

Team sprint is a short distance competition in cross-country skiing in which two skiers form a team and race on a 1.4 km course.

Two male skiers -- Han Chun-gyong and Pak Il-chol -- and female athlete Ri Yong-gum will compete for the North in cross-country skiing. South Korea will be represented by two male athletes, Kim Magnus and Kim Eun-ho, and two female skiers, Lee Chae-won and Ju Hye-ri, for cross-country events.

According to Olympic regulations, the team sprint competition is open to skiers who are qualified to compete in individual races. Skiers of both Koreas are eligible to compete in the category.

Formation of a joint team would require the blessings of the IOC and the International Ski Federation, the KSA official said. But considering how the international sports governing bodies have welcomed the North's participation in the Winter Games, it wouldn't be surprising to see the two sports bodies approve a joint cross-country skiing team in addition to the inter-Korean women's ice hockey squad, the source explained. (Yonhap)