Ri grabs third lifting gold for North Korea
North Korea’s Ri Jong-Hwa cried with joy and draped herself in the national flag as she continued her country’s golden Asian Games weightlifting run by winning the women’s 58kg class Monday.
Following in the footsteps of world record-breakers Om Yun-Chol and Kim Un-Guk the previous two days, Ri took North Korea’s third weightlifting gold with a total of 236kg.
It was a shattering blow for Wang Shuai of China who lost by just 1kg after leading Ri by 7kg after the first discipline, the snatch, and had to settle for silver.
“It was a pity I didn’t win gold,”Wang told reporters. “But I kept to my plan and I didn’t think she (Ri) would be that strong.” Thailand’s Rattikan Gulnoi took bronze on 222kg.
Ri also became, predictably, the third gold medallist to dedicate their victory to North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un.
“I owe my success to hard work and good facilities in my country,” Ri told AFP. “I would like to tell respected supreme commander Kim Jong-Un all about my victory.
“I was confident I could win here as long as I worked hard and pushed ahead with my strong will.”
China, usually dominant on the world weightlifting stage, now have just two silvers and two bronzes after five events in Incheon’s Moonlight Gardens Arena.
“I didn’t feel any extra pressure because we haven’t won a gold,” said Wang. “I knew if I lifted as I have done in training, which I did, I would have a good chance.”
With 58kg world champion Deng Wei of China and Olympic silver medallist Primsiri Sirikaew of Thailand both moving up to 63kg in this Asiad, the women’s 58kg had been billed as a wide-open competition.
But it soon turned into a two-horse race as Wang raised a stunning 109kg in the snatch, just 2kg off the world record set by compatriot Chen Yanqing in the 2006 Doha Asiad.
It gave her vital cushion over Ri, whose best was 102kg. And when she registered 126kg in the clean and jerk it looked like it would be enough to end China’s golden jinx.
Despite a failure with her last lift at 128kg Wang still looked favourite as Ri, having looked at the limit of her powers in making 128kg herself, had to load 134kg on the bar to win with two attempts remaining.
But in the end she needed only one mighty effort to huge cheers from the arena’s large contingent of pro-unification supporters as she broke into a smile and celebrated.
Waving enthusiastically to the crowd, Ri also followed in the footsteps of the men’s winners by draping herself in the North Korean flag and saluting while tearfully singing the national anthem.