INCHEON, South Korea (AFP) – Olympic champion Om Yun-Chol broke his own world record for the clean and jerk on his way to North Korea’s first gold medal of the Asian Games on Saturday.
Om raised 170kg above his head to better his record set last year by 1kg in the men’s 56kg class. He also set a games record with a combined total of 298kg as the men’s weightlifting got off to an explosive start.
The London Olympics winner received a rapturous ovation from South Korean fans as, having already lifted a Games record 166kg with his second attempt to secure gold, he then raised the bar into uncharted territory.
In doing so Om, one of only five lifters in the history of the sport to lift more than three times his own weight, then became one of only four to have achieved it on multiple occasions.
He told reporters that he was “very happy” at winning the gold medal and it had been possible because “whenever our people face difficulty, we come together and make it through the rough times.
“I wanted to break the record, so I worked hard to bring success to (North Korean leader) Kim Jong-un,” he added.
The 23-year-old Om, who stands just 1.52 metres (5ft) tall leapt in the air in delight and the packed arena went wild as he waved and acknowledged the support in a rare show of North and South Korean unity.
South Korean fans waved back a sign in Korean that read “Om Yun-Chol is the best”, while chanting “We are one,” to their sporting neighbour.
Records tumbled throughout the competition as Chinese favourite Wu Jingbiao, who took silver behind Om in London, equalled his Asian Games snatch record of 133kg only to see Vietnam’s 20-year-old prodigy Thach Kim Tuan better it with a third attempt of 134kg.
Thach went on to lift a personal best 160kg in the clean and jerk to set an Asian Games combined record of 294kg. Om shattered it minutes later to condemn the Vietnamese to silver. Wu’s 155kg in the clean and jerk gave him bronze on 288kg.
The talk before the event had been about the rivalry between Om and Wu, first and second in the 2012 Olympics and 2013 world championships.
But they were split by upstart Thach, who did not even qualify for the Olympics, as he propelled himself into the world’s lifting elite with a stunning performance.
It left Wu to reflect on yet another disappointment. He apologised publicly “for shaming his motherland” after coming second behind Om at the Olympics.