North Korea won its first medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, Brazil on Sunday, held in Rio, Brazil, the official website of the 2016 games revealed.
North Korean athlete Om Yun Chol won a silver medal in the men’s 56kg weightlifting event, placing second in the event after Long Qingquan of China.
Om, a 24-year old weightlifter, is making his second appearance in the Olympics. He previously competed at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, where he won a gold medal in the Men’s 56kg event. Om was reportedly a favorite to win the gold in this event in 2016.
Om has also competed in four weightlifting world championships – winning gold in three – as well as in the 2014 Asian Games, which were held in Incheon, South Korea, where he also took home a gold medal for the North.
The 56kg weightlifting event involves three sets of two types of lifts – a snatch and a clean & jerk. The top weights in each are kept and contribute to the athlete’s total score in the event. Om took an early lead with his first snatch at 128 kilograms. Om lost and retook the lead three times during the event.
In his final lift, Om broke the Olympic record for the clean and jerk in this event with his lift of 169kg. Om himself was the holder of the previous record of 168kg. Combined with his best snatch lift at 137kg, this brought Om’s total weight for the event at 303kg and put him in the lead.
Om’s lead and record, however, were short-lived. The next competitor, Long Qingquan of China, lifted 166kg, breaking not only Om’s new record, but also the world record for total weight lifted in this event, having achieved a total of 307kg, winning gold for China and bumping North Korea’s Om down to silver.
Om reportedly apologized to the North Korean leadership and people for not winning gold this time and vowed to return to the Olympics and win another gold medal.
“I don’t think I can be a hero to my people with a silver medal,” Om told reporters after the event. “He will be my inspiration forever and I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to repay with a gold medal,” he said, likely referring to either Kim Jong Un or his late father or grandfather.
“I hope to come back at the next opportunity and compete again and repay my gratitude with gold,” said Om. “This includes all championships and competitions that take place from next year all the way to 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.”
South Korea won its own medal in weightlifting the same day. Yoon Jin-hee won the bronze in the Women’s 53kg event. So far, South Korea has a won a total of five medals at the 2016 games – two gold, two silver, and one bronze.
In the previous Summer Olympics in London in 2012, North Korea won a total of six medals – four gold and two bronze. North Korea did not participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
North Korea sent a total of 31 athletes to the 2016 Olympic Games, competing in archery, athletics (track and field), diving, gymnastics, judo, shooting, table tennis, weightlifting, and wrestling. The North’s athletes were seen wearing red flag badges bearing the image of Kim Il Sung – commonly worn in North Korea – as they marched in the opening ceremony of the 2016 games on Friday.
— Chad O’Carroll (@chadocl) August 6, 2016
Featured image: Om at the 2015 World Weightlifting Championships, DPRK Today
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