Two Koreas march apart as Pyeongchang Winter Olympics come to an end

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The two Koreas marched behind their own flags and Russia looked forward to a quick end to its ban over mass doping as the curtain fell on the engrossing Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on Sunday.

At a colourful and cold closing ceremony, Ivanka Trump sat near a blacklisted North Korean general but unlike at the Games’ opening, the North and South Korean athletes entered separately, waving their national flags.

Russia’s flag was absent after the International Olympic Committee voted to extend its ban over doping – but Russian officials said they expected to return to the fold within days.

US President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka was just a few seats away from North Korea’s Kim Yong Chol, who is accused of masterminding attacks on South Korea and is blacklisted by Seoul.

As the ceremony got underway, South Korea’s presidential Blue House relayed that Chol’s delegation had said North Korea was “very willing” to hold talks with America.

It was the latest conciliatory move by North Korea during the Games, where Kim Jong Un’s sister attended the opening ceremony and the two Koreas formed their first joint Olympic team, in women’s ice hockey.

After a successful drone display – following an aborted attempt at the opening ceremony, where recorded images were broadcast instead – International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach handed out medals from the final day.

PYEONGCHANG-CLOSING

Topless Tongan cross-country skier Pita Taufatofua made a cameo appearance, greased in his trademark coconut oil, before Bach declared the Games – one of the coldest on record – closed.

“You have shown how sport brings people together in our fragile world; you have shown how sport builds bridges,” Bach told the Korean athletes.

“The Olympic Winter Games Pyeongchang 2018 are the Games of new horizons,” he added.

Winter Olympics legend Marit Bjoergen won the final gold of Pyeongchang in the women’s 30km cross country on Sunday – putting Norway top of the table over Germany, on overall medals won.

It was a fitting send-off for the Games and for Bjoergen, 37, who completes her Olympic career with a record-breaking 15 medals and was one of the stars of the 16 days of competition.

‘Rossiya, Rossiya!’

Other highlights included snowboard golds for America’s Chloe Kim, 17, and Shaun White, and the men’s and women’s figure skating titles brilliantly won by Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu and 15-year-old Alina Zagitova of Russia.

Crossover Czech star Ester Ledecka broke new ground when she pulled off an astonishing double win in alpine skiing’s downhill and snowboarding’s parallel giant slalom.

French biathlete Martin Fourcade and Norwegian cross country skier Johannes Klaebo both won three gold medals, and Canadian figure skater Eric Radford became the first openly gay male Winter olympics champion.

The joint Korean hockey team didn’t win a game, but the symbolic gesture was warmly welcomed – and vocally supported by the North’s immaculately drilled female cheering squad.

Germany and Norway both finished on 14 golds, but the Norwegians took top spot with their record 39 medals overall to Germany’s 31. Canada were third with 11 golds, while hosts South Korea were seventh.

Although they didn’t get to wave their flag at the closing ceremony, it was a triumphant day for Russia after their men’s hockey team beat Germany in the final – and then defiantly sung their national anthem on the ice.

Russia sent 168 athletes to compete as neutrals after the country’s national Olympic committee was banned for mass doping. However, two of the competitors failed drugs tests.

The International Olympic Committee voted on Sunday to keep Russia’s suspension in place until the other 166 Russians are cleared of doping in Pyeongchang.

The Russian Olympic Committee said it expected the ban to be lifted “within the next few days”. During the closing ceremony, chants of “Rossiya (Russia)” could be heard.

Attention now turns to Tokyo, host of the 2020 Summer Olympics, while the Winter Games also stays in Asia with Beijing holding the next edition in 2022.

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Top five Winter Olympics breakthrough stars from Pyeongchang

David Cooper 25/02/2018
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New stars have been born over the course of the past two weeks at the Winter Olympics.

Here, we look at five such young talents who delivered on the biggest stage of their respective sports.

We kick things off on the slopes…

ESTER LEDECKA

The 22-year-old Czech became the first woman to capture gold medals in two different sports at the same Winter Games, with the haul really being the making of her. She first captured the women’s super-G alpine skiing title, in what was a huge shock, and then topped that by winning the snowboarding parallel giant slalom competition. The two-time world snowboarding champion is now known as the Queen of Snow.

TOPSHOT - Gold medallist Czech Republic's Ester Ledecka celebrates on the podium during the victory ceremony for the women's snowboard parallel giant slalom event at the Phoenix Park during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on February 24, 2018 in Pyeongchang. / AFP PHOTO / LOIC VENANCE (Photo credit should read LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images)

CHLOE KIM

Just 17, the American became the youngest woman to win an Olympic snowboarding gold medal when she triumphed in the halfpipe in her first Winter Games. Kim, who also won two golds at the Youth Games two years ago, really realised her potential on the biggest stage and is set to become one of the most-marketable athletes given her huge rise in Pyeongchang.

GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 13: (BROADCAST-OUT) Gold medalist in Snowboard Ladies' Halfpipe Chloe Kim of the United States poses for a portrait on the Today Show Set on February 13, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Marianna Massey/Getty Images)

ALINA ZAGITOVA

The 15-year-old’s meteoric rise has been the stuff of dreams. Indeed, the figure skater pipped fellow Russian and the more experienced Evgenia Medvedeva in the ladies’ individual event, recording a world-record score of 82.92. In an Olympics where the spotlight has been on Russian athletes for differing reasons, she became the first from her country to claim gold.

Russia's Alina Zagitova performs during the figure skating gala event during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Gangneung Oval in Gangneung on February 25, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Mladen ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

ZOI SADOWSKI-SYNNOTT

Became New Zealand’s youngest-ever Olympic medallist, at 16 years and 353 days, after her bronze-placed finish in the inaugural Big Air snowboard competition. Compatriot Nico Porteous, also aged 16, finished third in the freestyle skiing. Given the fact the Kiwis had not won a medal for 26 years before the Games, they’ll both be a pretty big deal when they arrive back home.

PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 25: Flag bearers Zoi Sadowski-Synnott and Nico Porteous of New Zealand pose for a photo on day sixteen of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on February 25, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

NATHAN CHEN

The 18-year-old American won bronze in the Olympic figure skating team event but after initially performing poorly in the free skate segment, he made Olympic history by becoming the first athlete to attempt six quads in one program and land five of them cleanly. His score of 215.08 in the free skate, the highest in Olympic history, elevated him from 17th to fifth in the rankings. If only he had started better…

GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 17: (BROADCAST-OUT) United States Men's Figure Skater Nathan Chen poses for a portrait with his bronze medal in the team event on the Today Show Set on February 17, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Marianna Massey/Getty Images)

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Winter Olympics: Marit Bjoergen grabs record-extending 15th gold as Norway top medal table

David Cooper 25/02/2018
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Marit Bjoerge of Norway on her way to a landmark 15th Winter Olympics gold medal.

Marit Bjoergen grabbed a record-extending 15th Winter Olympics medal as she won the 30km cross country to put Norway top of the final medals table in Pyeongchang on Sunday.

The cross-country legend, 37, signed off in style after a glittering Olympic career as she won 1min 49.5sec ahead of Finland’s Krista Parmakoski, as Stina Nilsson of Sweden took bronze.

After the final event of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, Norway and Germany both have 14 gold medals. But the Norwegians have a record 39 medals overall, compared to Germany’s 31.

Bjoergen became the most successful Winter Olympian of all time earlier in the Games, when she finished third in the team sprint free.

Her bronze with Maiken Caspersen Falla put her on 14 Olympic medals, outstripping fellow Norwegian Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, who has 13 in biathlon.

Bjoergen is also the second most successful woman at either the Summer or Winter Games, trailing only Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina with 18 medals.

Norway, a country of 5.2 million people, have enjoyed a barnstorming Olympics, breaking the United States’ 2010 record of 37 medals at a single Winter Games.

Provided by AFP

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