North Korea’s figure skaters have made their debut at the Winter Olympics, showing off an “electric” routine that earned them a spot in the qualifying round.
Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik were greeted by cheers as they performed their routine, set to an instrumental cover of The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life”.
The performance on Wednesday saw the duo reach their personal best score.
They are the only North Korean athletes to qualify for the 2018 Games on merit.
Opening their routine with a triple twist lift, the duo were cheered on by a swarm of North Korean cheerleaders who wore red and white tracksuits and waved North Korean flags.
The participation of North Korean athletes and cultural troupes in the Olympics has not been without controversy, as some critics question the North’s commitment to reconciliation and others warn it will change nothing on the nuclear front.
Ms Ryom, 19, and Mr Kim, 25, finished with 69.40 points, their personal best score for the short program – landing them a spot in the 11th place.
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“Right now to be realistic, their goal is to make it into the top 12,” their coach Bruno Marcotte had earlier told the BBC. “If they reach the top ten, then that would incredible.”
The pair will go on to compete in the long program on Thursday.
The duo’s performance has also won them a fair share of fans, both offline and online.
South Koreans on social media were equally impressed.
“Never thought North Korean figure skaters would be this good,” said one user on social media platform Disco. “Ryom looks like a middle school student but he has top skills.
“They are amazingly great. I want to go and cheer [them on]. Are they any tickets left?” another user asked on Twitter.
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But its not just their skating skills that have got those on social media buzzing.
Instagram lit up with comments when South Korean figure skater Kam Alex Kang-chan approached Mr Kim for a selfie together earlier last week.
“With my bro from up north woo hoo let’s go! #pyeongchang2018 #jonsnow #theyhateuscausetheyaintus”, said Mr Kam’s Instagram caption.
The interaction is one of several visible moments of friendship between the North and South Korean athletes, who this year marched under a single “unification flag” at the Olympics opening ceremony.
Pyongyang has sent some 22 athletes and more than 400 delegates, including a team of cheerleaders and an orchestra, to this year’s Winter Games.
The Games are currently taking place in the wake of long-running tension over North Korea’s nuclear programme.
Kim Jong-un surprised many in his televised new-year speech, when – amid threats against the US – he first expressed support for the Winter Olympics and a wish to “melt the frozen North-South relations”.
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