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South Korea hockey teams given spots in 2018 Olympics

South Korea hockey

South Korea’s Sanghoon Shin (R) fights for the puck with Kazakhstan’s defender Roman Savchenko (R) on April 19, 2013 at the Budapest Sport Arena during their IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division 1 Group A match. AFP PHOTO / FERENC ISZA (Photo credit should read FERENC ISZA/AFP/Getty Images)

AFP/Getty Images

South Korea’s men’s and women’s hockey teams will compete at home at the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) said Friday.

There had been concern that South Korea would become the first Winter Olympic host nation to not take part in the hockey tournaments. The IIHF stopped giving automatic berths to host nations beginning with Vancouver 2010, but Canada and Russia (in 2014) had no problems making it through qualifying to secure spots.

South Korea, with a men’s team ranked No. 23 in the world and a women’s team ranked No. 24, would have faced tough odds to earn spots in the 12-team men’s tournament and eight-team women’s tournament. Reports suggested the men’s team needed to up its world ranking to No. 18 overall to be given a spot in the Olympic tournament as a host nation.

But the IIHF Congress granted automatic host nation spots for 2018 on Friday.

“Korean hockey has been working for a long time for this opportunity, and to have this presented to us today is overwhelming,” South Korea men’s national team head coach Jim Paek said in a press release. “I don’t want to make any promises, but as long as we focus on the process every day to get better I think we’ll be very competitive, and hopefully we’ll represent the country well.”

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