Talks continue on possible joint Korean hockey team at Tokyo 2020 despite missed deadline

Talks are reportedly continuing about North and South Korea forming a unified women's hockey team at Tokyo 2020, despite the advanced stage of the qualification process.

The neighbours previously agreed to join forces in the sport for next year's Olympic Games, as well as in women's basketball, judo and rowing.

But no progress has been made in hockey, and South Korea competed alone at the International Hockey Federation (FIH) Series Finals tournament in Ireland in June, part of the Tokyo 2020 qualification pathway.

They came through successfully and now face a two-leg clash with Spain in Valencia next month, where the winners will reach the Games.

Kyodo News reported that an FIH deadline of yesterday to apply for a joint team had been missed, with sources claiming this marked the end of the road.

Should South Korea qualify, however, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) could then approve a unified squad.

Talks are reportedly ongoing between the IOC and the National Olympic Committees in both North and South Korea.

FIH chief executive Thierry Weil said to Kyodo News that if South Korea qualifies, the final decision on the joint team would be down to the IOC.

However, South Korea have reportedly heard nothing from North Korea when trying to organise combined training sessions.

The IOC is keen to encourage joint sports teams on the Korean peninsula as a way of promoting peace between the two nations, who technically remain at war.

North Korea competed at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics in the South after the country's leader Kim Jong-un announced that the secretive state would take part.

Korea formed a unified women's ice hockey team at Pyeongchang 2018 ©Getty Images
Korea formed a unified women's ice hockey team at Pyeongchang 2018 ©Getty Images

Both Koreas marched together under a unified flag at the Opening Ceremony and also fielded a joint women's ice hockey team.

There are now tentative plans for a joint-Korean bid for the 2032 Summer Olympics, a prospect IOC President Thomas Bach told insidethegames he "welcomes very much".

North Korean participation dominated the build-up to Pyeongchang 2018 following security concerns over missile tests and nuclear threats in the North.

Bach later admitted that the Games came close to being cancelled over safety fears, with Kim exchanging fierce rhetoric with United States President Donald Trump.

Further initiatives in Pyeongchang saw a squad of cheerleaders from the North deployed and, arguably most significantly of all, a high-level North Korean delegation travelled which included Kim Yo-jong – the sister of the leader. 

In March 2018, Bach met with Jong-un in Pyongyang and discussions began on North Korean participation at the Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022 Games.

Unified Korean teams were then selected for last year's Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang, in dragon boat racing, lightweight rowing and women's basketball.

The unified Korean dragon boat team made history as they claimed gold in the women's 500 metres race. 

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Pan Am Field Hockey Preview: US women take on Cuba in Sunday's quarterfinals

The U.S. women's field hockey team stands just three games away from its third straight Pan American Games gold medal — and an automatic berth at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

After wrapping up pool play on Friday, FIH No. 13 Team USA will face No. 63 Cuba, the fourth-place team from Pool A, in the quarterfinals on Sunday. The game is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. Eastern at the Villa Maria del Triunfo complex in Lima, Peru.

Before the game gets underway, here's a closer look at the matchup.

About the opponent

While there has been a lot of talk about how young Team USA's roster is, the Americans look like seasoned veterans compared to their Cuban counterparts.

Cuba entered the Pan Am Games with a roster full of players making their international debuts. Goalie Yusnaidy Betancourt leads Cuba with 17 caps, while Jessica Ortiz and goalie Yurismailis Garcia are second with five caps each.
Head-to-head

It's been four years since Team USA and Cuba last met at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto.

Warwick graduate Alyssa Manley is the only American returning from the squad which beat Cuba 12-0 in pool play. Nine different members of Team USA scored that day with Katie Bam, then Katie O'Donnell, netting the first goal two minutes into the game and finishing as one of three players — along with Melissa Gonzalez and Penn Manor graduate Jill Funk, then Jill Witmer — to score twice.

Cuba struggled through the first three games of the tournament, getting outscored 31-2 in Pool A. First came a 10-0 shutout loss to Canada followed by 8-1 and 13-1 losses to Uruguay and Argentina, respectively.

Yunia Milanes scored both goals for Cuba.

Team USA finished pool play a perfect 3-0 in Pool B, including shutting out Mexico 5-0 and Peru 8-0 — with Donegal graduate Mackenzie Allessie scoring four goals against Peru. The Americans' biggest test came against Chile, where they had to overcome a 2-0 deficit with four fourth-quarter goals.

Allessie leads Team USA in scoring, followed by three goals each from Erin Matson and Lauren Moyer.
Up next

The winner of Sunday's game will advance to face either Canada or Mexico in Tuesday's semifinals, with the game tentatively scheduled for 6:15 p.m. Eastern. The Team USA-Cuba loser will meet the Canada-Mexico loser in a placement game at 12:45 p.m.

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