South Korean skiers to conduct joint training with North
Seoul, Jan 18: South Korea’s ski sports federation said on Wednesday that it is considering sending the national team reserves and promising youngsters for joint training with North Korea at a resort north of the border, after the two Koreas agreed to unprecedented sports exchange ahead of the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games.
In a meeting at the border village of Panmunjom, the two Koreas agreed to hold joint training for skiers at Masikryong Ski Resort in the North ahead of the Winter Olympics scheduled to be held from February 9-25, reports Yonhap news agency.
The Korea Ski Association (KSA), however, said it’s not likely that the South Korean skiers who will compete at the PyeongChang Olympics will join the training.
“Masikryong Ski Resort is a facility that meets requirements from the International Ski Federation (FIS),” an official with the KSA said. “However, it’s difficult for our Olympic skiers to train there because the PyeongChang Olympic Games are just around the corner and they have a tight schedule.”
Since North Korea doesn’t have skiers who have qualified for the Winter Olympics south of the border, the KSA expected that the joint training will focus more on sports exchange between the two sides instead of the Olympic tune-up.
“We’ll probably select national team reserve members or youth national teams skiers to join the training,” the official said.
To inspect the facility before the training, the KSA said it plans to dispatch a three-member advance team from next Tuesday to January 25.
Ryu Je-hoon, director of international affairs at the KSA, said the South’s ski governing body has been preparing for training in Masikryong Ski Resort, which is located near Wonsan, Kangwon Province, in the North.
“Since the resort opened in January 2014, we’ve been preparing for the so-called ‘Masikryong Project’ which is to use the North Korean facility as a training ground,” he said.
“We believe the quality of its facility is comparable to that of Yongpyong Ski Reort in South Korea.”
Ryu, who also serves as secretary general at the Asian Ski Federation, said that the continental sports body is also interested in Masikryong Ski Resort.
“The Asian Ski Federation is also interested in hosting its events at Masikryong Ski Resort and using the resort as a training base,” he said.
“In order for North Korean athletes to compete at the PyeongChang Olympics, they need to earn wild card selections, but that’s really a difficult problem.”
The last time North Korean skiers appeared at the Winter Olympics was in Albertville, France in 1992.
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