Games-North Korean weightlifters set another world record, dominate in Hangzhou

By Martin Quin Pollard

HANGZHOU, China (Reuters) -North Korea’s weightlifters once again crushed the opposition at the Hangzhou Asian Games on Monday with another world record and two more golds, triggering admiration and astonishment from some of their competitors.

The eye-catching world record on Monday came from Kim Il Gyong, 20, who lifted 111kg in the snatch on her way to gold in the women’s 59kg category.

That beat the previous record of 110kg set in 2021 by Taiwan’s Kuo Hsing-chun and came after two other women’s world records were set by Kim’s team mates on Saturday.

“We have very good training facilities and we put in a lot of hard work,” Kim said when asked how her team had done so well, after a medals ceremony in which she cried during the national anthem.

But her rivals either declined to comment or expressed shock.

Kuo, 29, said of the world record set on Saturday by Ri Song Gum: “The 49kg, I actually came to watch that day and when I saw it, I said it was just too scary.

“They (North Korea) have been strong in the past for many years so it is not too surprising that they would have such results, but it is still pretty scary.”


The 19th Asian Games is North Korea’s first major weightlifting competition since December 2019 due in part to COVID-19 and they may be benefiting from skipping competitions, including last month’s world championships in Riyadh.

Their absence means they have not had to deal with post-competition recovery, several observers and athletes said.

“We have not competed internationally for four years,” said Kim’s team mate Rim Un Sim, who won North Korea’s other gold on Monday in the women’s 64kg and set an Asian Games record.

“In that time we have shed tears and a lot of sweat.”

Kim had given an early indication that she was serious about winning gold by opting to make her first lift in the snatch at 103kg, a weight so high that only one of her rivals, China’s Luo Shifang, was still in contention after passing that weight.

World champion Luo, strongly supported by the several hundred in the crowd in the high school sports hall-type venue, matched Kim initially but then opted for 107kg with her third snatch, leaving the stage for Kim to set the world record.

The snatch is one half of the final where athletes hoist the bar up in one movement. In the other half, the clean and jerk, athletes first lift the bar up to sit on their shoulders and then attempt to push it above their heads in two movements.

Medals are awarded according to the aggregate of best lifts in snatch and clean and jerk.

In the clean and jerk, though appearing to grimace slightly more than in the snatch, Kim also made all three lifts. Her third was 135kg, 5kg shy of Kuo’s world record set in 2019, but enough for a Games record.

Her total weight lifted for the competition came to 246kg, also a Games record, but 1kg off Kuo’s world record set in 2021.


In a thrilling finale and roared on by the crowd, Luo attempted 140kg on her final clean and jerk lift which would have won gold and equalled Kuo’s world records.

But it was not to be and she had to settle for silver, with a total score of 240kg.

“Now the DPRK is ahead of us and we need to catch up,” said China’s weightlifting head coach Wang Guoxin.

North Korea is formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Tokyo Olympic champion and five-time world champion Kuo appeared unusually tentative and conservative in her weight choices and ended third with a total score of 227kg.

Kuo, 29, is hailed in Taiwan for having overcome a tough upbringing in a poor, single-parent family to achieve success and for being generous with her earnings.

Afterwards she tearfully admitted an injury, which has bothered her for a while, affected her performance.

She hopes to defend her Olympic title in Paris next year, but worries her body may not be up to it.

“You can’t be sure if you’ll be able to compete next time so you hope to do as well as possible each time,” she said, wiping back tears.

(Reporting by Martin Quin Pollard; Additional reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Nick Macfie, Robert Birsel)