Skip to navigationSkip to content

North Korea’s pair figure skaters electrified the Olympics with a personal best

Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik of North Korea react after their scores are posted following their performance in the pair figure skating short program in the Gangneung Ice Arena at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
AP Photo/Bernat Armangue
A new best.
By Alice Truong
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

North Korea’s pair figure skaters, Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik, electrified the stands in Pyeongchang with their Olympic debut, where they recorded their personal best score for the short program.

Ryom and Kim scored 69.40 for their routine, set to a Jeff Beck instrumental cover of The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life,” immediately putting them second in the standings behind Russian skaters Kristina Astakhova and Alexei Rogonov with 70.52. Several teams, including from the US and Canada, had yet to perform.

A CBC commentator said the pair likely came into the Olympics with more confidence because they won bronze last month at the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in Taipei, Taiwan.

Though Ryom and Kim had the support of the North Korean cheerleading squad, the audience clearly loved them as well. At Pyeongchang, the pair started off technically strong with a triple twist lift, but the crowd favorite was when Kim lifted Ryom overhead. They ended the routine with a forward inside death spiral.

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
Charisma on ice.

The two trained under Canadian Bruno Marcotte in Montreal, Canada last summer, and his sister, Julie, choreographed the routine. Marcotte described them as fast, with “beautiful, classical lines,” “good posture,” and “unison [that] is really next to none.”

“They’re so expressive that the audience just connects very well with them,” Marcotte told the Global News in November. “They have a lot of charisma on the ice, that’s for sure.”

While expectations are low that they’d medal—the New York Times says they have “zero chance”—they’ve been been among the most popular athletes at Pyeongchang. Given their standing, they will be among the 16 pairs to advance to the free skate tomorrow (Feb. 15), for at least a shot at a medal.

Today’s routine is similar to the one they performed a month ago in Taipei:

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.