North Korean figure skaters revel in starring role

Kim and Ryom advance to Thursday's free skate

(CNN) - Skating to "A Day in the Life" by The Beatles, North Korea's figure skaters received huge cheers as they took to the ice at the Gangneung Ice Arena at the Winter Olympics in South Korea.

Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik proved why they were the only North Korean athletes to qualify for the PyeongChang Games.

They immediately went into second place in the qualifying round with a score of 69.40, behind the Olympic Athletes for Russia on 70.52. As the event went on, that score held up for a spot in Thursday's free skate.

Few athletes were under more scrutiny at the 2018 Winter Games. Kim and Ryom were the only athletes to compete under their country's flag; North Korea's hockey players are competing as part of a unified Korean team.

The pair was supported by a huge squad of North Korean cheerleaders, who have traveled to Pyeongchang for the Olympics. The squad also loudly cheered on South Korean skating duo of Kim Kyueun and Alex Kam.

But the cross-Peninsula support didn't help the South Koreans, who scored a disappointing 42.93 after Kim took a hard fall onto the ice. The score obviously hit them hard, with Kim on the verge of tears speaking to reporters after the performance.

The North Korean pair originally qualified for the Winter Olympics in September, but North Korea's National Olympic Committee (NOC) missed the deadline to register them for the games.

After a sudden and dramatic rapprochement between the two Koreas however, the International Olympic Committee agreed to extend the deadline for North Korean participation.

"The IOC's mission is always to ensure the participation of all qualified athletes, beyond all political tensions and divisions," the IOC said in a statement.

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