North Korea to send 230-member cheering squad in Winter Olympics

North Korea’s cheerleading squad — dubbed the Hermit Kingdom’s “army of beauties” — are handpicked by Kim Jong Un himself. (AFP)
Updated 17 January 2018
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North Korea to send 230-member cheering squad in Winter Olympics

SEOUL: North Korea plans to send a 230-member cheering squad to South Korea as part of its delegation to next month’s Winter Olympics, Seoul officials said Wednesday, the latest in a series of conciliatory gestures the North has abruptly taken recently following a year of heightened nuclear tension.
North Korea informed South Korea of the size of its Olympic cheering squad when officials from the rivals met at the border for the third time in less than 10 days to discuss how to cooperate in the Olympics.
A flurry of Olympics-related meetings has provided a tentative thaw in long-strained ties between the Koreas. But the North’s reluctance to discuss its nuclear weapons program is raising skepticism over how long this mood of reconciliation will last.
During Wednesday’s talks, the North also told South Korea that it has a plan to send a delegation to the Pyeongchang Paralympics set for March 9-18, Seoul’s Unification Ministry said in a statement. A detailed makeup of the North Korean Paralympics delegation will be determined in further talks between the Koreas, it said.
The Koreas also discussed fielding a joint women’s hockey team and having their athletes march under a “unification flag” depicting the Korean Peninsula, instead of their respective national flags, during the opening ceremony for the February 9-25 Games in Pyeongchang, the ministry statement said.
It said North Korea proposed its Olympic delegation travel to south across the heavily fortified land border. Such a border crossing would be a highly emotional event garnering global attention.
The North has said its delegation would also include high-level officials, journalists, a taekwondo demonstration team and an art troupe along with athletes. On Monday, the two Koreas agreed that a 140-member North Korean art troupe comprising orchestra members, singers and dancers would perform in the South during the Games.
Despite its plans to send big cheering and artistic groups, no North Korean athletes are currently officially qualified to come to Pyeongchang though the Intentional Olympic Committee recently said it has “kept the door open” for North Korea to take part in the games.
Some critics say the North may be trying to use the Olympics as a chance to launch what they call “peace offensive” to show it’s a normal country despite pursuing nuclear weapons. They also accuse Pyongyang of trying to divide Seoul and Washington to weaken international sanctions and buy time to perfect its nuclear weapons.
The International Olympic Committee is to meet with sports and government officials from the two Koreas and officials from the Pyeongchang organizing committee at its headquarters in Switzerland on Saturday.
A pair of North Korean figure skaters qualified for the Olympics, but North Korea missed a deadline to confirm their participation. The IOC said recently it has “kept the door open” for North Korea to take part in the games.
South Korea also wants the IOC to allow the hockey team’s 23-player Olympic roster to be expanded so that several North Korean players can be added without removing any of the South Korean players. If a joint hockey squad is realized, it would be the Koreas’ first unified team in an Olympics.
There are still worries in South Korea that adding new players less than a month before the Olympics would eventually weaken the team power and deprive South Korean players of due playing time.
“Adding somebody so close to the Olympics is a little bit dangerous just for team chemistry because the girls have been together for so long,” Sarah Murray, the South Korea women hockey team’s head coach, told reporters Tuesday, according to Yonhap news agency. “I think there is damage to our players.”


Rockets outlast Warriors 98-94, edge closer to NBA Finals

Chris Paul of the Houston Rockets goes up against Quinn Cook #4 of the Golden State Warriors in the fourth quarter of Game Five of the Western Conference Finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center on May 24, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Bob Levey/Getty Images/AFP)
Updated 25 May 2018
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Rockets outlast Warriors 98-94, edge closer to NBA Finals

  • The Rockets head into Game 6 on Saturday night in Oakland one win away from knocking off the defending champions and advancing to the NBA Finals.
  • After Game 6 on Saturday, the Rockets would host Game 7 on Monday if necessary.

HOUSTON, Texas: Eric Gordon came off the bench to score 24 points and his steal on Golden State’s last possession secured a 98-94 victory Thursday night that gave the Houston Rockets a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals.
The Rockets head into Game 6 on Saturday night in Oakland one win away from knocking off the defending champions and advancing to the NBA Finals for the first time since winning back-to-back titles in 1994-95.
Chris Paul scored 20 points and James Harden struggled for his 19, but Paul had to leave the game in the final minute with what appeared to be a hamstring injury.
Kevin Durant scored 29 points for the Warriors, who lost in Game 5 of a playoff series for just the second time since 2015.
The Rockets won a second straight defensive struggle between the two potent offenses, leaving the Warriors a loss from missing the NBA Finals for the first time since 2014.
“We had to rely on our defense once again,” Harden said. “Game 4, we weren’t making shots but defensively we were really good. Same thing tonight.”
Draymond Green made a 3-pointer with just over minute left to get Golden State within one. Harden, who was 0 for 11 on 3s, missed his last one with less than 30 seconds left, giving the Warriors the ball back.
Stephen Curry missed a floater and Trevor Ariza grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 10 seconds left. But he made just one of two free throws to give the Warriors another chance.
But Gordon came up with his steal when Green lost control in the lane and added two free throws with 2.4 seconds left to put it away.
Klay Thompson shook off a knee injury that had his status for this game in question to score 23 points and Curry added 22. A bruised left knee kept Andre Iguodala out for the second straight game, and Kevon Looney started in his place.
After losing Game 1 of the series, the Rockets made the best of home-court advantage this time, thrilling a sellout crowd that included Justin Timberlake, Houston Texans star J.J. Watt and rapper Travis Scott.
It’s Houston’s second straight win in the series after snapping Golden State’s NBA playoff-record, 16-game home winning streak with a 95-92 victory on Tuesday night.
Golden State led by one to start the fourth before Paul got going, scoring seven points to power a 10-5 run that gave the Rockets an 81-77 lead with about 9 1/2 minutes left.
Thompson made a 3-pointer after that and then officials reviewed Paul’s first basket of the quarter and ruled he got it off after the shot clock expired, leaving the Warriors ahead 80-79.
The Rockets were clinging to a one-point lead with about seven minutes left when Durant fouled Gordon on a 3-point attempt, losing one of his shoes in the process. Gordon made all three free throws to start a 7-2 spurt that extended the lead to 88-82 midway through the quarter.
The Rockets honored the 10 people killed in last week’s school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, before the game, with the school’s choir singing the national anthem and team owner Tilman Fertitta wearing a “Santa Fe Strong” T-shirt, before Houston scored the game’s first six points in a first half where the team led by as many as 11.

TIP-INS
Warriors: Coach Steve Kerr was unsure Thursday if Iguodala would be able to return for Game 6. “He’s dying to play, but he’s not healthy enough,” Kerr said. “We’ll just continue to take it day to day..”.. Curry made four free throws to tie Rick Barry for most free throws made in the playoffs in franchise history with 378. ... Golden State had 18 turnovers.
Rockets: Clint Capela had 12 points and 14 rebounds for his seventh double-double this postseason. ... Houston made 13 of 43 3-pointers, led by four from Gordon.

UP NEXT
After Game 6 on Saturday, the Rockets would host Game 7 on Monday if necessary.