Stars of Asiad

(Asiad) Diminutive crowd pleaser brings big cheers in weightlifting

2014/09/21 10:10

By Yoo Jee-ho and Kim You Jin

INCHEON, Sept. 21 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's world beater Om Yun-chol, the smallest weightlifter in the men's 58kg final at the 2014 Asian Games, made the biggest noise Saturday night in Incheon, whipping the crowd from both sides of the tense border into a frenzy with his record-breaking performance.

The 152-centimeter lifter, who set a world record in the clean and jerk en route to winning his country's first gold at this year's Asiad, singlehandedly brought a rock concert atmosphere to the Moonlight Festival Garden Weightlifting Venue. Perhaps it was only fitting, since the Moonlight Festival Park, inside which the weightlifting arena is situated, is home to one of South Korea's biggest rock festivals, Pentaport.

Om's inexorable march toward the world record in the clean jerk prompted rhythmic clapping and enthusiastic chants from the stands. Dozens of South Korean supporters from a civic group even held up a sign that read, in Korean, "Om Yun-chol is the best."

   Om did his part to excite the crowd, jumping up in the air and pumping his fist after successful lifts, a rare display of raw emotions for an athlete from the reclusive, isolated state.

North Korean weightlifter Om Yun-chol celebrates after breaking a world record in the clean and jerk in the men's 58-kilogram event on Sept. 20, 2014, at the Incheon Asian Games. (Yonhap) North Korean weightlifter Om Yun-chol celebrates after breaking a world record in the clean and jerk in the men's 58-kilogram event on Sept. 20, 2014, at the Incheon Asian Games. (Yonhap)

The festival disguised as an Asiad weightlifting competition reached its zenith when Om, with the gold medal already clinched, hoisted 170kg to break his own world record by 1kg in his third and final clean and jerk attempt.

Even the two reticent North Korean officials, Kim Yong-hun, Pyongyang's minister of physical culture and sports and the head of its Olympic committee, and Son Kwang-ho, vice head of the Olympic body, were compelled to rise from their seats and applaud.

After the medal ceremony, Om stepped off the podium and walked toward Kim, who gave him a big embrace. Weightlifting officials from other countries also congratulated Om, as the fans in the stands kept chanting his name.

Despite having hundreds of fans cheering him on, Om said he had one person on his mind: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

"With our leader Kim Jong-un's teachings in mind, I pledged to do my best," Om said. "I wanted to break the record, and I worked hard to bring success to Kim Jong-un."

   North Korea may not be done in weightlifting. In the men's 62kg event Sunday, Kim Un-guk, who won the 2012 Olympic gold with a world record total of 327kg, will be going for his first Asian Games gold.

Kim was a big fan favorite in London, too, endearing himself to the crowd with his theatrics and record-breaking performance.

jeeho@yna.co.kr

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