Asian Games 2018: Jakarta & Palembang, Aug 18-Sept 2

Weightlifting golds for North Koreans

Diminutive Ri Song Gum competing in the 48kg category in Jakarta yesterday. She won North Korea's first gold medal of the Games.
Diminutive Ri Song Gum competing in the 48kg category in Jakarta yesterday. She won North Korea's first gold medal of the Games.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

JAKARTA (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE) - North Korea's pint-sized weightlifters ruled the roost as they bagged their country's first two gold medals of the Asian Games yesterday.

Ri Song Gum pipped local favourite Sri Wahyuni Agustiani to open their account in the women's 48kg class, then pocket-rocket Om Yun Chol retained his Asian Games men's 56kg title with ease as he defeated eternal Asian rival Kim Tuan Thach of Vietnam.

Ri, who is just 1.4m, hoisted a massive 112kg in her first clean-and-jerk attempt to power past Agustiani, who had led by 1kg after the first snatch discipline.

Olympic silver medallist Agustiani, aged 24 and known affectionately as Yuni, tried and agonisingly failed twice to lift the 112kg she needed to take gold ahead of Ri despite the huge cries of "Indonesia, Indonesia" ringing around the Jakarta International Expo venue.

Ri re-emerged twice to attempt an Asian Games record and personal best of 117kg but departed in agony as her left knee buckled on both attempts and she had to be helped from the platform on one leg.

A few moments later, draped in the North Korean flag, the 20-year-old Ri's pain turned to ecstasy as she received the gold medal and belted out the North Korea's anthem with tears streaming down her cheeks and dribbling from her chin.

Ri's victory - a 199kg total with Yuni 4kg in arrears - was watched by North Korea Sports Minister Kim Il Guk, who told Korean media: "She did a great job."

An emotional Ri emerged from doping control with her left knee encased in an ice pack but said: "I'm very happy that I won the first gold."

The rising star, who came fourth as a teenager at the 2015 World Championships, was cheered to the rafters by a large phalanx of supporters clad in unified Korea T-shirts.

"I felt good because many people supported me," she added.

It left Yuni with yet another silver medal to add to those she won four years ago at the 17th Asiad in Incheon and again at the Rio Olympics two years ago and, crestfallen, she too was left in floods of tears.

"I have lifted 116kg in training but today never felt like I could repeat it, no," the visibly upset Indonesian told AFP after the medal ceremony, feeling that she had let her country down as Games host.

Thailand's feisty Thunya Sukcharoen took bronze with a 189kg total.

Following Ri's victory, Om, who is not much taller at 1.51m, raised 160kg in the clean and jerk for a 287kg total, 7kg ahead of Thach, the reigning world champion, who also had to settle for silver behind Om in Incheon four years ago.

Indonesia's Suramat Suwoto Wijoyo was awarded the bronze after a 272kg total.

London 2012 Olympic gold medallist Om, known for his exuberant celebrations, gave a reserved fist pump as he made his winning lift and departed the stage with just a wave before failing at two 172kg attempts that would have beaten his own Asian Games record set in 2014.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2018, with the headline 'Weightlifting golds for North Koreans'. Print Edition | Subscribe