North Korean lifter breaks record

Monday, 22 September 2014 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Reuters: North Korean pocket rocket Om Yun Chol broke his own weightlifting world record at the Asian Games on Saturday, while hosts South Korea matched powerhouse China’s gold medal haul with five on the first day of competition. Less than 24 hours after a vibrant opening ceremony marked the launch of the 17th Asiad, Om hoisted more than three times his own bodyweight with a superhuman lift of 170kg in the clean and jerk. Standing just 1.52m tall (5ft) and weighing 56kg (123lbs), Om’s mighty lift came near the end of a day in which 18 gold medals were split between eight countries. China’s Zhang Mengyuan won two gold medals, in the women’s 10 meters air pistol event and in the team event. Some 9,500 athletes from 45 countries are competing at the Games, the world’s second-biggest multi-sport event after the summer Olympics, with 439 gold medals in 36 sports up for grabs. And while there are 14 more days of competition to go, it is hard to imagine a gold medal being celebrated with such joyous abandon as Om displayed at the Moonlight Festival garden venue. The London Olympic champion let out a roar of triumph, raced to celebrate with his coach, did a lap of honour draped in the North Korean flag, then posed on the podium with a razor-sharp salute as the national anthem played in his honour. The scene would not have pleased the conservative groups who had demanded Incheon organisers take down North Korean flags flying around the city in the lead-up to the Games, but the crowd’s reaction to Om’s win was one of delight, not distrust. Tensions between North and South Korea are high and the two states are still technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. “I am very happy,” the 22-year-old Om told reporters. “Whenever our people face difficulty, we come together and make it through the rough time.” South Korean fans also had good reason to cheer their own athletes as they took five gold medals – in wushu, fencing, cycling and equestrian. Lee Ha-sung picked up the hosts’ first gold in the men’s wushu changquan and his coach, Park Chan-dae, said Lee had accomplished something he never could. “He has achieved my dream for me,” said Park. “Although I won gold six times in the Wushu World Championships, I only got a silver medal at the Asian Games.” Lee’s combination of whirling kicks, athletic leaps and intricate hand movements earned him a score of 9.71 points to take gold in the martial arts discipline, ahead of Macau’s Jia Rui (9.69) and Japan’s Daisuke Ichikizaki (9.67).