North Korea call themselves 'world leaders' after weightlifting golds

By AFP   October 5, 2023 | 06:50 pm PT
North Korea call themselves 'world leaders' after weightlifting golds
North Korea's Song Kuk Hyang during a weightlifting event that won her an Asian Games gold in Hangzhou, October 5, 2023. Photo by AFP
North Korea proclaimed themselves "world leaders" after winning a sixth Asian Games weightlifting gold on Thursday to cap their return to international competition after a four-year absence.

Song Kuk Hyang, last seen at the 2018 Youth Olympics, won the women's 76kg category in Hangzhou to take North Korea's total in the sport to six golds, five silvers and two bronze.

They currently top the medals table in weightlifting.

Song hoisted 150kg with her final lift in the clean and jerk to pip teammate Jong Chun Hui by 1kg and clinch the title.

She had earlier cleared 117kg in the snatch for a 267kg total, with Jong matching the snatch mark but managing only 149kg in the clean and jerk. South Korea's Kim Su-hyeon came third.

North Korean lifters have also set six world records, prompting some rival competitors to remark that they were "shocked" at the impressive performances after their long absence because of Covid.

Team manager Jang Song Nam put it all down to "hard work."

"Every gold medal is payback for our hardship over four years," he said.

"We are world leaders now. We wanted to show our strength and we did it.

"We have not been able to compete in international weightlifting, but we have had a lot of competitions at home and that is no less a standard."

China's Tian Tao won the men's 96kg title.

Tian, the 2019 world champion at 96kg and 2014 Asian Games champion at 81kg, failed at his final clean and jerk of 216kg and had a nervous wait while North Korea's Ro Kwang Ryol attempted the 221kg he needed for gold.

Ro's no-lift left Tian in front with a 4kg margin, having recorded a combined 390kg across the two disciplines after a 163kg snatch.

"Physically I always could reach this level," said Tian, who has been struggling with an elbow injury and a leg strain.

"However, the main challenge is my own injuries, and I rely on my willpower to overcome it."

Ro was North Korea's last chance for more men's weightlifting gold.

"I thought I could make that final lift but because of an error I didn't do it," said Ro.

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