Pairs figure skaters Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik stood on the podium as “The Star-Spangled Banner” played and a North Korean flag was raised beside two American flags.
Ryom and Kim, two of 22 North Korean athletes added to the PyeongChang Olympics by the IOC, finished third Friday in a tune-up for the Winter Games at the Four Continents Championships in Taipei.
Americans Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea and Ashley Cain and Tim LeDuc, who are not going to the Olympics, went one-two at the event that lacked the world’s top 10 pairs.
Ryom and Kim set a personal best with 184.98 total points, moving up from fourth after the short program for bronze medals despite Ryom falling on a double Axel and turning out of a throw triple loop landing in the free skate.
Kayne and O’Shea outscored them by 9.44.
“We didn’t reach the same level as we did as in practices,” Ryom said, according to the ISU. “I’m really upset, and it’s a pity.”
Ryom and Kim, two of few North Korean winter sports athletes to compete on the top international level, were 15th at last season’s worlds.
They clinched an Olympic spot for North Korea at a September event, but North Korea did not confirm it would use the spot by an October deadine and it was given to Japan.
Ryom and Kim rank No. 21 in the world this season.